Defriending In The Age Of Trump

Like it has for you, Facebook has revealed to me the inner thoughts of 'friends' I might not have otherwise learned. And to be clear, this isn't just about Trump. He is, though, a person whose very name sparks division, ushering in an era of defriending that I've never seen before on social media. And look. I get it. I don't want to be part of someone else's rally either. Whether I see someone share fear-mongering statistics on immigration or trumpet the pendulum-has-swung-too-far approach to feminism, racism, and privilege, my heart hurts that anyone in my life would spread intolerance or lack compassion. Interacting with every problematic moment in my feed? Impossible. I'm a mom who's been looking for time all week to write THIS... but, is the solution to just unfriend all the people I don't agree with? Here's why, for me, the answer is no.

It was after watching the doc "Accidental Courtesy" that I started thinking about why I should stop abandoning people if I hope to make a positive change. The story follows Daryl Davis, a black musician who'd played with legends like Chuck Berry and Little Richard; he happened to meet a particularly high-ranking Ku Klux Klan member after a show. The Klansman was there as a music fan but Davis, who wanted to understand how it could be that a whole group of people could hate him without ever having known him, invited an open conversation and eventually became friends with the Klansman (not just on Facebook, mind you). Over the course of their relationship, the Klansman had to examine how he could hold hate for someone he'd grown to love. The answer was, he couldn't, and when he resigned from the Klan he gave Davis his white hooded robe as a thank-you. If that isn't enough of a win, over the next thirty years, Daryl Davis went on to form more friendships with KKK members. Over 200, in fact, and he has the robes to prove his impact. 

Now, you probably do not have the energy to take on that kind of conversation. I barely do and I'm white and cisgendered, I can't imagine how exhausting it must be for y'all who are made to be marginalized and are called on over and over again to explain your perspective! You don't owe anyone an education about your life, and any route you choose to take to feel safe on social media is your choice: defriend, block, your call. But for me, leaving the door open feels okay (maybe not for the literal KKK), and I prefer it to shutting every insensitive opinion away to fester in its own room. The only thing that does is keep people high fiving each other without seeing who they're hurting. Daryl Davis proved it: ignorance is the problem. 

And ugh. I have been ignorant.

When I was a kid, I didn't even blink when someone would say "that's gay" or "that's retarded". A friend told me Treaty cards meant you didn't pay tax and your education was free and I quietly believed that for years. I was in my twenties when I learned that the last residential school only closed in 1996. Despite my parents trying to explain that people don't pick the circumstances into which they're born and that anyone can have tough times, I thought to need social assistance meant a person wasn't trying hard enough and wondered why anyone would have a child they couldn't afford. And, right up until high school, I was reluctant to identify as a feminist because I thought it meant that if we used that word, men wouldn't feel equal. I'm sure there's more for me to look back on in total embarrassment. 

Fortunately, ignorance is a curable condition. It requires people to see from another perspective, to ask questions, and to be open to the answers. Who knows what the catalyst for that reflection will be-- I was trying to recall what changed for me in how I looked at gender, Indigenous, poverty, and LGBTQ2S+ issues, hoping I could pinpoint the time my understanding began to grow, but looking back I find it hard to relate to that old mindset. (If you relate to that, maybe you have an answer? I'd love to know.) 

defriending in the age of trump

If, like me, you have changed your mindset, or you feel safe to share your feed with people in need of a wake-up, please reconsider hitting the defriend button when you see someone post something you disagree with. Even if you don't have the time or energy to interact directly with it, maybe just maybe something loving that you post will be the spark they need to see from a kinder point of view. Becuase when people know better, they do better.