Betty Duffy

(Amateur)

Friday, October 1, 2010

I am hesitant to post this...

I recently had dinner with my girlfriends from grade school, which involves meeting up at the local Olive Garden restaurant (where we are certain not to see a soul that we know) and cracking up over ancient inside jokes until the management tells us to tone it down. Coming off a particular laughing jag, everyone breathed a sigh that said to one another, “I’m so glad you all are Republicans.”

You see, when we are not spending time together at the Olive Garden, we are more likely to spend time hanging out together on Facebook, where, because we grew up together, we share a number of common friends. And among those common friends, is an annoying old flame of mine who sends out inflammatory status updates berating Republicans.

Personally, I’m not friends with the guy on Facebook, because it is my rule and my law not to friend old flames. Also, the last time I checked in with him, some fifteen years ago, he was taking pictures of himself in a dress and calling it art, but every now and then, my friends like to fill me in on what he’s doing these days to shock and annoy people, and like a great number of talent poor performance artists from the early nineties, he’s primarily doing status updates. But I have plenty of friends of my own who disliked Bush, disliked Palin, disliked Proposition 8 and now are happy it’s been overturned.

I can’t help noticing that my Republican friends do not send out political status updates of their own (and if they do, it's with the caveat, "I'm actually more of a Libertarian these days..."). I wonder sometimes why this is. Are we afraid?

Yes.

My own profile information notes that my political persuasion is “move to the country, plant a big garden, and have babies.” To me this says very clearly, “Leave me alone, Government,” implied subtext: I am a Republican. But the average Republican on Facebook is more likely to omit a political orientation than they are to admit it.

From its inception, Facebook has been the political arena of the young, the tech savvy, the hip. Old (relatively) Righties like me leeched on to it because our friends were there, or our kids were there, and we needed to know what it was about. But it’s not really our place. In fact every virtual visit I make there seems to fling another pie in my face from left field. It’s not very pleasant.

I find myself avoiding Facebook more and more as time passes, keeping my contacts as a virtual address book and people map to my past. Circumstantially, the majority of the friends I see in real life are Republicans, but it’s an aspect of our being we rarely actually discuss, because we are classy. It’s just this sigh of commonality, a peaceful revel of belief that undergirds our discussion. No cream pie in the face conflicts to diffuse, no nickelodeon-style buckets of political goo dropped over our heads. At our most sectarian moments, we are simply glad to be around fellow Republicans, and then, please, pass the Alfredo before the breadsticks get cold.

18 comments:

Elizabeth@GoodnessAdded said...

I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. The problem with Facebook is there is no real consequences to saying something political or anti- religion for that matter. Sure 25 of your friends may "like it" but you many have insulted 50 others. Will they speak up? Probably not. If people just stuck to basic manners it would be an nice place to hang out.

Catherine said...

I recently moved to NYC. I feel like a political/religious loner. :(

The only republican who speaks up on my Facebook is my Mother in Law. She's the type that posts any Obama-bashing half-truth that gets forwarded to her email. It's embarrassing.

Kimberlie said...

I know what you mean. I guess I would have to say that I am a Republican since there isn't a "Conservative" party, at least not in my state. I am the kid who grew up loving Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and all things "smaller government, get the heck out of my life." My parents, at the times solid Dems, thought I was a freak of nature. Had I not been conceived out-of-wedlock, they would surely have thought I was not really their child (that and the fact that I am nearly the spitting image of my dad's side of the family). However, these days, I am a "one issue voter" as that issue overwhelmingly outweighs all other issues, that being pro-life.

As a convert to Catholicism, I still have a lot of Evangelicals in my past and it's sad to me to see them so afraid to be a "one issue voter" that they have become enthralled with the Dems because they are more "compassionate" and that's what Jesus would be. Whatever!

Anonymous said...

I friended an old co-worker who I've always enjoyed talking to and discovered that he is a hate-spewing leftie on facebook, along with all his friends. Now I see all of their joint hate-spewing all day long. I need to unfriend him.

BettyDuffy said...

Anon, isn't it weird when you really like someone in person, but not on facebook?

Of course, I'm sure there are people who like me in person, but not on my blog, and vice versa.

wifemotherexpletive said...

i think it goes beyond party names. there is a sensibility amongst friends that is shared and fairly wonderful. as the product of oldschool Maine republicans, I do not think that the current national Political parties are representing what is good and true about either party. and facebook? eish. it is fairly easy to 'hide' what you don't want to look at, but i think about half of the world wants to focus on what they don't like about the 'others'... maybe more.

Sally Thomas said...

I eschew conversation on Facebook for the most part because a) I'm on it mostly to keep tabs on my oldest child, not that she really needs keeping tabs on all that much, but still; and b) I hate the fact that all conversation is public conversation. It's like public speaking, all the time. You might think you're tossing off a remark to one or two or three other people, but in fact you're tossing it off to everyone on your friend list, and then it'll wind up being visible to all their friends, and so you have all these eavesdroppers -- yuck. It's not a safe environment for honest conversation.

Sally Thomas said...

Oh, and most of my oldest friends -- we're all 10 years older than Betty, btw -- have gone mystifyingly mid-life hip on me. We have history in common, but not values. These were the people I was safest with in high school, but conversation in that group isn't safe any more. Once you run through the ancient in-jokes, there's . . . not . . . much . . . left to say, which saddens me no end.

Mike said...

Anon-

There's a way to "block" the posts of certain Facebook friends without unfriending them. Cursor over to one of their posts, to the right of the post, and a triangle will appear. Click the triangle and you will no longer see posts of theirs on your wall.

I'm not a Facebook whiz. My daughter showed this to me. My description may not be 100% accurate—I'm going by memory. But there's a way to do it.

Mike

The Merry said...

I'm delurking for a moment to add a comment.
I've never been on Facebook, neither am I a Republican. Growing up, I somehow got the idea that people who called themselves Liberals were liberal in their thinking, i.e. they didn't judge people for having different opinions. But I am ashamed of how some people in my hometown now tend to ridicule my mother for her Republican beliefs. It's like the motto now is "Freedom of speech for people who agree with me!"

I think Elizabeth@goodnessadded had a point, but I would expand upon it -- if people everywhere just stuck to basic manners, the planet would be a nice place to hang out.

Melanie B said...

Facebook wasn't really around when I started dating my husband but he had a blog and posted an average of 5-7 posts a day, many of them political. It's a good thing I'd met him in person first because I'm not sure but that meeting him on his blog wouldn't totally have alienated me. As it was when I first started reading it, I was pretty uncomfortable. He seemed so reasonable in person when we discussed the very same topics but was quite the hothead when discussing them online. He doesn't blog much anymore; but I do have to say that once we were married my intervention helped to tone him down quite a bit.

Margie said...

I love this, and sooo get it. Although my MIL is, like Catherine's, a forwarder of those crazy, embarrassing half-truths.

I'm toying with being more openly Republican on the blog. It wouldn't be hard to do - I have opinions and read the Wall Street Journal daily - but I'm not sure if I'm ready to open up the differences that exist between me and other readers (although I think most of them are my MIL's friends!).

Though I'm not Catholic, I still think we could be friends, Betty!

Eric said...

I understand where you are coming from...

I actually enjoy talking politics, debating issues of the day -- the more raucous the better! My wife informed me that I am unique in my ability to get into a heated conversation and not make it personal or take it personally.

I do not care that a FB friend had "good pancakes for breakfast" or that they are watching "Dancing with the Stars"... but I do care what they think about the deficit, the war (where WE are sending young men and women to die), etc.

I'm learning that I'm in the minority in that regard. We are an intellectually lazy populace and that extends to FB.

BettyDuffy said...

Eric, You make some good points. I too enjoy a heated discussion about the issues. I think the problem with status updates is exactly what Elizabeth noted--there are no real consequences to sending out a 140 character insult to the five hundred people in your friend base. There is no context in which the statement can stand. They often have an inflammatory, rather than civil tone. No one who is living a real life has the time to respond thoughtfully to all of them. And more often than not, they are references to a satellite page or platform that keeps getting reissued every time someone "likes" them.

I have friends however, both on FB and in real life who do not enjoy discussing politics. No amount of cajolery or provocation will make them talk, and part of being a respectful friend (both in RL and FB) is noting those personal boundaries--which often requires KNOWING someone in ways that FB never allows people to know one another.

My fear is that the laziness of which you speak only increases via social networking while simultaneously increasing polarization. People mistake "like"-ing something for political activism, "click to donate" for compassion. Self-satisfaction grows. DIALOGUE suffers.

Peter and Nancy said...

I have avoided FB because . . . well, because I don't think the details of my life are that fascinating! I really don't care if others are sitting down at Starbucks, or just walked their dog, or whatever -- and I'm assuming that most people don't care that I am going to make some popcorn right after I post this comment. Ditto for my political views.

I think these quick little statements give the illusion of friendship and intmacy, but create a lonelier life. So for now (until my kids want to be on FB), I will abstain.
Nancy

Eric said...

Agreed Betty and well put. You crystalized it well.

Political apathy is not new, nor is the unwillingness to discuss it in polite conversation. Or sex, or religion...

I have been an avid FB user since it broke loose from the college campus and have mostly enjoyed it, but in the last few months I have contemplated abandoning it entirely, instead relying on the old-fashioned blog to keep interested family and friends abreast of my family's goings-on and my opinions on the issues of the day.

As I age I appreciate my friendships more and more and only wish I had more time to invest in them face-to-face. FB, I think, is actually making me/us more lonely in some weird way...

Melanie B said...

I think facebook is just a tool and can be used poorly or well. Sure, it can be filled with inconsequential trivia about going to Starbucks and making popcorn but it can also be used with greater discretion and be a great way for distant family to keep in touch. It's perhaps not the best way to have in-depth conversations. I do prefer blogs for that; but some of my friends and family stubbornly refuse to read my blog-- or at least don't comment there.

So I share pictures of my children as they grow and anecdotes about cute things they say and do so that my brothers and parents, who live in another state and only see us once or twice a year, can feel like they aren't complete strangers. And my aunts and uncles and cousins can also see and feel like we're still connected. Still not as good as seeing each other more often; but the reality is it's facebook or nothing and I choose an attenuated sense of connection to never hearing anything about them ever.

I don't talk politics on facebook very much mainly because it can be so easy to offend someone in a way that you can't do in a face to face conversation. But I do have a few friends with whom I regularly use facebook to have longer conversations about topics of mutual interest. We don't email, they don't read my blog; but we share news items of interest and discuss them and the conversations are civil even when they do become a little heated. In short, I have found that it is possible to have intelligent discourse on facebook but perhaps you might have to carefully cultivate your "friends" list to do so.

el-e-e said...

I love this. And I love the note about being too classy to actually TALK ABOUT your political affiliation. :) Yes.