Ah, Facebook, that creepy computerized yearbook that allows us all to keep in touch with that kid who sat three rows behind us in second grade and scratched himself in improper places all through math class.
A compilation of old friends, random family members, and strangers who claim they knew us at some point, somewhere, for some reason, an average Facebook friends list is usually a hodgepodge of people of all backgrounds, ages, and yes, even political affiliations. But never has this odd Facebook mix been as obvious as it has been over the past week, when the election brought out the excitement in some, and the all out nastiness in others. Status updates, the Facebook method of broadcasting one's thoughts or mood out to the world, became filled with hateful rhetoric, putting some Facebook users in an incredibly awkward position: "Do I de-friend this person?" "Do I engage this person?" And perhaps the most puzzling question of all, "How did I become friends with this person in the first place?"
Facebook friending is awkward enough already: every so often, you get that random request from a person you went to school with many years ago, who suddenly wants to know what you're up to. It is through these kinds of online reunions that you learn that Suzy Whatsadoodle, your best friend from 7th grade, now has 8 kids, and she married Kevin AwesomeMcCar, who has moved on from his days as a paste-eater to become the vice president of a fairly respected company. Suzy Whatsadoodle-AwesomeMcCar sends you online plants and online candy canes, shows you pictures of her adorable children, and is generally a non-threatening blast from the past who just seems like a sweet person who really means no harm.
And then, the second after Barack Obama is elected President of the United States, you see this:
Suzy Whatsadoodle-AwesomeMcCar thinks she better hide her paycheck before our new Socialist leader comes to steal it from her. 2 min ago
Suzy Whatsadoodle-AwesomeMcCar hopes the babykillers of the world are happy. God is the ultimate leader, and he doesn't make mistakes, unlike the American people. 13 min ago
Your instant reaction is this: Aroo!? WTF, Suzy Whatsadoodle-AwesomeMcCar?! De-friend! Click!
But then something else hits you: the anger in her messages and the vitriol in her words must sound, to you, exactly like your anti-Palin/anti-McCain rants sound to her. And yet, she still sends you pictures of her kids, asks you about your job and how your mom is doing, and hopes to see you at Thanksgiving. And so the question becomes: does the political outweigh the personal? Do you owe anyone a friendship if their views run so opposite to yours?
Personally, I only have two very conservative friends, and they have posted status updates that aren't nearly as disturbing as the ones that some of my friends have come across. As we learned from our own commenters in this thread, racist rants, homophobic celebrations, and downright dirty accusations have all popped up on Facebook, causing family members to delete other family members, old friends to dismiss other friends, and acquaintances to reconsider who they allow into their online lives.
Facebook is designed to recreate the social experience online; and yet even though we can choose who has access to our profiles, our opinions, and basically, our lives, just like in the real world, we often find out things about people that we did not expect or want to see. So how are you handling the status update madness? Have you defriended anyone? Had any discussions with "friends" who have posted nasty notes? Or are you just avoiding the Suzy Whatsadoodle-AwesomeMcCars of the world and looking ahead to better days?