Being new to the world of Facebook, I’m still trying to navigate the murky territory of interacting online with people you interact with socially in the “real world”.  I’m particularly fond of the  concept of “unfriending” people online.  When you’re tired of hearing about someone you’ve added as a friend, complaining about how miserable they are, or posting status updates about their cat, it’s time to drop that sad-sack right off your list.  The best part is you can do this without all the messiness of actually acknowledging, in person, a lack of interest in seeing the details of the sad-sack’s personal life.  This is the perfect way to thin the herd of friends- particularly of the online-only variety.  It appeals to all of my worst personal flaws – petty, cowardly, and passive-agressive.  


Before I was smart enough to reflect on the consequences of friending people I interact with socially, I was an FB (that’s what the cool kids call Facebook) friending fiend.  There’s an allure about the friending tool that lulls you into lowering your normal friending standards.  Before I knew it, I was trying to hook up with my 3rd grade girl friend and find a handful of long-lost colleagues from my first post-high school job – people’s whose last names I couldn’t remember.  Within hours of FB-ing for the first time, I was making friend requests with the frenzied abandon of a losing politician campaigning on Election Day –  ”I would appreciate your friendship because, I believe, if you know what’s on my mind at regular intervals, it will profoundly shape your life and contribute to the greater good”.


As we navigated the Tuesday night Chick Fil-A crowds to find a table, some familiar faces appeared amongst the sea of frazzled parents and crazed children.  Karen and Walter are acquaintances – people we’ve known as friends of other friends for several years.  Their son is in Tabitha’s pre-school class, so we often pass one another in the halls as we’re dropping off or picking up our kiddlings.  Sitting down at the table adjacent to Karen & Walter’s we chatted effortlessly and laughed heartily with them over the mind-trip that is parenthood. We had a great time that evening and by the time we were ready to leave, I extended my new electronic hand in friendship, asking if they’d be interested in “friending” me on FB.  They were. 

Karen & Walter’s Facebook status updates were innocent, family-oriented stuff, at first.  Things like: ”Enjoying some FL sunshine with the family today…” or “Packing for our 2 week trip to Costa Rica…”  But on a Tuesday night, shortly after we’d taken our friendship to the next level, Dick came home and related a conversation he’d had with Karen & Walter that evening at CFA.  Turns out Karen & Walter don’t “believe in evolution”. 

Now, I’m pretty sure I’ve revealed myself to be a flaming liberal already (and you’re still here…), so you can assume that I’m down with the whole theory of evolution thing.  In fact, I don’t really see a problem with having a conversation about the origin of species that has nothing to do with an individual’s religious beliefs.  Believe whatever you want to believe, as far as I’m concerned.  But just because I am persuaded by the (abundant) scientific evidence of a natural order in the universe, doesn’t mean I have any less respect or awe for the magnitude of that order or the processes behind it.  But when people say they don’t “believe” in the theory of evolution, I have a hard time wrapping my mind around that.  It just seems to me to be a stunning lack of reason, like pointing to a shape that is obviously a square and saying that, despite it having equal angles and four equal sides, they “believe” it’s a circle. 

So, if I’m a little Mr. Spock in my reaction to people who don’t “believe” in the theory of evolution, than Dick would be considered downright robotic in his response.  Generally, Dick is fascinated with people and their beliefs.  He loves to discuss the role of belief in religion and in science, since he’s a scientist at heart.  But when the conversation stops being an intellectual pursuit of  concepts, he becomes disinterested in pursuing an unproductive course.  A lack of reason just doesn’t compute for him.  So when the debate over evolution spiraled down to a level of granularity bordering on the ridiculous, Dick politely wrapped up the discussion, packed up the kids and came home.

Other than remarking on the veracity of Karen & Walter’s non-belief in evolution, Dick found the exhange with them polite.  Neither of us gave it much thought until the FB invite arrived a few days later…

You are invited to an evening of food, fellowship & fun at Karen & Walter’s house – “We Surround Them!”

At first I didn’t think anything of the invitation, but the term”We Surround Them!” at the end of the invite struck me as oddly out of place for a dinner party, seeming to imply some sort of ambush was in the works.  Out of curiosity, I googled the term and learned that it was an ambush – a branded term from conservative talk show host Glen Beck for a gathering designed to make the voice of the conservative movement heard to the liberal community.  It seemed that Dick’s innocent little conversation with Karen & Walter had inadvertently outed us as being [gasp] “liberals” and now we’d been targeted for attack.  We politely declined the invite.

A few days later, another FB invite appeared in my Inbox…

“Join me in standing up for the rights of the unborn. Abortion is murder!”


A few days after that…

“Join me in becoming a fan of Sarah Palin”


In subsequent days we received invitations to participate in another Glen Beck invention – the local tax day “tea party”, we were solicited for donations for ultra-conservative right-wing causes, invited to join the NRA, and treated with decidedly more agitated status updates from Karen and Walter reading, ”Rush Limbaugh spoke the truth today. Save America from the socialists!” and “God has graced us with the wisdom of Karl Rove & Rush Limbaugh. Down with the stimulus pork and all so-called leaders who would touch it!”.


Finally being sick of the assault on my politics, and all the inflammatory posts to my FB wall, I did what any petty, cowardly, passive-aggressive person would do… 

  • I became a fan of Rachel Maddow’s decidedly liberal talk show on MSNBC (I really do love her…) and shared my fandom on FB
  • I joined N.O.W. and proclaimed my membership in a status update
  • I invited all my friends to join me in an FB group called “Fox News is Faux News”
  • I donated money to Al Franken’s legal battle over the senate election in Minnesota and went public on FB
  • I invited all my FB friends to share in my support of the ACLU with a small donation
  • I joined the I LOVE CHARLES DARWIN group on FB
  • I asked all my FB friends to join me in supporting the DNC
  • I casually sprinkled f-bombs in my posts to their wall – “Those are some great f***ing photos from Costa Rica, guys!”

Briefly, I considered joining a Pro-Choice group on FB that was named “Pro-Death” with a logo featuring a photo of an infant with the cross-hairs of a gun on his forehead.  Thankfully, my reason kicked in and I decided that, while I could justify my Pro-Choice stance, I couldn’t really justify calling myself ‘pro death”, nor could I be part of a group whose logo combines a baby with a rifle.


I’m not necessarily proud of what I’ve done with regard to Karen & Walter.  It would’ve been a lot more sensible of me to just “unfriend” them and move on with my life.  Initially, my hope was that my love of Rachel Maddow would tell them everything they needed to know about me and my views.  “They’ll get the hint and go back to being normal,” I thought.  But my pronounced liberalism only served to incite them further; I had to up the ante.  Besides, I didn’t join any liberal groups on FB just to make a point.  These were all groups with whom I share a common belief.  At least that’s how I justified my actions to Dick, who, as only an occasional FBer, had no idea what I was doing until I ‘fessed up.

“Sweetie…”, he said in a tone usually reserved for the children after they’ve been caught drawing on the wall.

“I’m sorry.  I know it wasn’t the classiest thing I’ve ever done, but I couldn’t help myself.  They were asking for it.  I mean, Rush Limbaugh?  Sarah Palin? And Karl Rove – he must be the anti-christ, right?”

“Forget classy.  It’s not very adult of you to wage a playground war with people just based on their political views.  What happened to being tolerant of other views?”

“I am very tolerant…but they started it!”, I insisted.

Dick sighed, shook his head and turned away from me to face his computer monitor.  I hate disappointing Dick.  That’s the worst – almost as bad as disappointing my grandmother.

“Well, what should I do?”, I asked, trying to draw him back into conversation.

“Conduct yourself as a respectful, dignified, adult”, he said, still facing his computer screen.

“I AM conducting myself as a respectful, dignified, adult – just not with those intolerant, manipulative, whacko, neo-cons who disguise themselves as normal people.” 

Dick turned to face me again.  ”Sounds like you’re making nice progress on tolerance, dear,” he said with his lips curled up, ever so slightly.


Since admitting to being a petty, cowardly, passive-aggressive wimp, I’ve tapered back some of my FB-ing.  I’m not sure if it was the onslaught of invitations for liberal causes or if  they’ve identified a more worthy target, but Karen & Walter’s invitations have ceased.  I’m still considering ”unfriending” them, but wonder if FB would lose some of its interest for me without Karen & Walter’s colorfully inflamatory statements and non-sensical beliefs peppering my home page.   Absurdly, I’ve come to look forward to them.  I know embracing tolerance means occasionally having to listen to speech you don’t like or don’t agree with.  Someday, when I’m more mature, I’m going to get on board with that whole tolerance of others thing.  In the meantime, I’ve got me some Greenpeace to join.  Doing my part to bring balance to the farce…

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