Friday, December 11, 2015

Why I, a Flaming Liberal, Don't Think You Should Axe Your Facebook Friends Who Support Donald Trump

Recently, there's been a link circulating to a Huffington Post article that shows you how to search on your own Facebook page to identify which of your friends have "Liked" Donald Trump, presumptively so you can thereby go and unfriend them.

It pains me to write anything even tangentially about Donald Trump, because more publicity just feeds the monster, but the response to this link has put a pretty large bee in my bonnet, so forgive me for all of the times I am about to type the word "Trump."



Before I go any further, a small disclaimer: I absolutely DO think you should delete Facebook friends who make you feel endangered, targeted, unsafe, etc. Much of what Trump has been spewing lately has been hella racist, so if you find yourself the target of someone else's radicalization, by all means UNFRIEND AND BLOCK.

What I'm referring to here is the decision to unfriend someone because they've "liked" a Donald Trump post or a Donald Trump page. I want to make a case for all those who are tempted to unfriend their Trump "liking" friends to reconsider.

Some points:

Social media already ensconces us in bubbles of like-mindedness. And that's not a good thing. 

Research has found that social media effectively squelches debates. Pew researchers studying the effect named it the "spiral of silence" - a phenomenon that occurs when people believe that their beliefs will be largely unpopular within their friends on social media and thus remain silent. This is negative for a plethora of reasons:

 - Being constantly surrounded by people who only agree with us makes us more entrenched in our views and less likely to consider other perspectives or viewpoints. This can lead to knowledge and creativity vacuums. Differences force us to move forward, to compromise, to change. This isn't just some hippy philosophy, this is proven fact. People who are different than we are make the world a better place. Differences should include not just people who have sexual, lifestyle, religious, racial differences - they should also include people who are politically different.

- The power of like-mindedness is why terrifying groups of people like ISIS or the KKK tend to congregate geographically (and now in reddit groups and other online spaces), because having mutually reinforcing belief systems tends to radicalize people. And sure, you're probably not going to become the liberal version of ISIS if you delete a few Trump supporters from your Facebook friend list, but on principle, it's good to keep people in your life who will keep you on your toes.

So you may not agree with your friends who like Trump, but having Trump supporters in your life and in your feed could potentially keep you more abreast of how other people are talking/thinking about world events. You don't have to agree (you can even Unfollow them!), but it's good to have people in your life who you'll butt heads with occasionally.

Further, it's important to note that while you might not agree with their proposed answers to problems, the fact of the matter is, you're friends with people for other reasons than their political beliefs. Perhaps you share a history with them, or they're your family members, or they're coworkers, or college friends. Friendship isn't necessarily based on politics, but on shared interests. Interests like how difficult it can be to be a new mom, or how cool 18th Century Japanese paintings are, or how fun it is to play Call of Duty 4, or travel to new countries, or try new brunch places. Friendship often starts with shared interests and is consolidated by shared values. I would argue that even if you don't believe in the same politics, you probably believe in some of the same political values that Trump supporters believe in.

For example, in some ways, Trump supporters are consistent with the more universal American value of no-bullshit 

There's been a lot of interest recently in who exactly Trump supporters are. Many left-leaning people are utterly baffled as to why anyone would have any interest in someone like Trump. When questioned as to why they support Trump, the main answer supporters give is

because he's a proven winner who is not beholden to the interests or influences of a political establishment that they feel has abandoned them.

There's no question or need for a research study to tell us that most people are disillusioned with DC. Americans are tired of the stagnant, festering turd that is our Congressional body. They're tired of the bickering, tired of the partisanship, tired of the lack of meaningful reform in areas that would actually benefit their lives, like a bump to our long-stagnant wages, someone to sort out the appalling student loan crisis, improvements to infrastructure, etc. Americans want, and have really always wanted, someone who talks straight and doesn't put up with crap. This is, I would argue, a fundamental American value. We have always appreciated candor, up to and including the point of vulgarity. It's an American flaw - something we are frequently criticized for by other countries, but it is also a strength in certain circumstances. Trump supporters are people who want someone who will tell it to them straight; so do Bernie Sanders supporters. 

It's easy for liberals to retort that Trump's rampant inaccuracies and outright lies would make anyone who believes that he's not a "bullshitter" just stupid or misinformed. But if you consider the amount of conjecture that surrounds nearly all political issues these days, is it any wonder that people have a hard time separating the truth from the lies? I have a freaking degree in political science and the issues aren't always clear to me either.

Isn't it possible that we can agree on the fact that it would be great to have someone who is a straight talker in the Oval Office in 2016, even if we can't agree on who is talking straight? Trump supporters are so passionate for real talk that they're reaching out to support an outsider of politics (in fact, GOP supporters are reaching out for 3 non-political contenders, all of whom have done well in the polls). In many ways, they are trying to break the partisan, two-party system, ostensibly because they want REAL reform. Again, we don't need to agree on what that reform should look like in order to understand this perspective.

WWTD? Unfriending someone over because of their affiliation is something Trump would do

Deleting friends who support Trump is similar to what Trump himself is advocating - to shut out people who are different, who disagree with him, who frighten him, who challenge him. Deleting people who are Trump supporters is actually the most Trump-like action you could take in these circumstances.

Bottom line is, you can do whatever you want. Sometimes it can be exhausting to wade through the political firestorm that sometimes rages on Facebook. There are days when I'd like some way to preselect only friends who post photos of their cute babies, funny pet videos, and cool travel photos. But, despite having these days, I'm still not deleting anyone just because they liked a Donald Trump article. Ted Cruz however..... ;)


Michael Lee said...

A well written read. Thanks for posting!
-Michael L.

Michael Lee said...
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