This. How do we handle this? By ‘this’ I mean, when our friends post something in social media that really disturbs us. How do we have conversations with people and maintain a friendship? And should we? Some say, “We should agree to disagree.” Others say we should not "live in an echo chamber". But isn’t that what our elected officials are doing and it certainly isn’t getting results. Whether you are the person asking the questions in this meme or you are the person responding, it’s a problem for us all. There does not seem to be a compromise in this dialogue. Social media has the potential to be a place where we could really have our voice heard, yet, some seem to try to shut us down with rude insults and demeaning language, some even threaten us.

Which leads me to, what is a friend?  There’s your co-worker, sometimes we refer to them as “my friend at work”. A friend can be someone you grew up and played with as a child. A friend is your buddy you go fishing with. We have ‘best friends’. Maybe your neighbor is your friend. Friend has a wide definition and varying degrees. Social media has created a new variation of friend, ‘someone that we have never met in person but enjoying exchanging ideas and thoughts with’. It can seem strange to share and communicate with a person we have never met- we have to trust that what they present on line is real. This is where it can get tricky because we have no way to know if they are truthful or presenting a false personality.  Some people are uncomfortable about sharing and it is a good idea to be cautious. Then we have the people we do know in real life who becomes friends with us on Face Book and sometimes we find out they are not the person we thought they were. That’s when things become challenging. Recently I learned that a friend of 30 plus years blocked me on Face Book and I admit it hurt when I discovered it. Instead of ignoring her or becoming angry I decided to ask her about it. She said she disagreed with some of the things I posted and didn’t want to see them. When I see things in my news feed I don’t like from friends I opt for the ‘hide post’ or ‘don’t follow’ but that’s what works for me and it’s not my job to tell people how to manage their social media or friendships. We talked about it and we have become friends on Face Book again and are still friends in life. Social media is a new media and we are all working out the protocol and rules for how to behave and how to react. There was no Miss Manners book to refer to on ‘how to conduct ourselves on line’. So we are muddling through and sometimes we make mistakes with our friendships. As we do in real life.


How should we treat our on-line friendships is something I have been pondering for a while. How much should we share? What kind of boundaries should we establish? Currently my guideline is, would I meet this person for coffee? Would I have this person over for dinner? We have all had the experience of sitting down to a meal with a relative who is loud and opinionated, it makes for an uncomfortable situation. Mostly we quietly endure this person’s tirade, glancing discreetly at each other, hoping the person will become aware that they have made people at the event uneasy. They usually don’t get it and continue. The older I get the less tolerant I am of allowing myself to be bullied for the sake of politeness. I have learned techniques to alter the conversation. I have learned to not attend some events because of the people who will be attending. I don’t invite bigoted, narrow minded people into my life and I stay out of theirs. I have been applying the same guidelines to social media. It is possible to engage in discussion with people who have different ideas than our own, I have found some people who are willing to talk and discuss without getting mean or withdrawing, some have even changed my mind! It turns out sometimes what I thought was inaccurate and it can be hard to admit it. wink


We did not get to be one of the world’s most successful nations by polite sharing of kitten photos (Don’t get me wrong I like photos of kittens, just not all the time). We became the diverse, engaging, messy, crazy, amazing and wonderful country we are because people have had vigorous debates and conversations. Had Benjamin Franklin had access to social media I am sure he would have utilized it fully and would not have been shy to post or comment. When we read the letters of Jefferson and Adams we see two men who had quite differing opinions yet they were able to maintain a lifelong friendship. We have no choice but to get along and being receptive to a different idea or new information should not create a brick wall but a door to a reasonable exchange of ideas.


Deborah Baron

Deborah Baron

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