A couple of weeks ago I attempted to tally up the number of people who have ‘unfriended’ me on Facebook over the last 3 years. The final figure came to just under 20. Of these 20 friends and colleagues, only one contacted me in advance to tell me that he was going to ‘unfriend’ me. Not because of my politics, he was quick to say, but because he felt that I approached issues like I am ‘in a boxing ring.’ He is quite possibly right. I like a good debate, and at times I find that online debates are much like a game of chess, or a ‘virtual boxing’ match. I enjoy the mental sport of it. But for me, the ‘boxing’ is in the debate and battle of ideas, not in ad hominem attacks.
Of this cohort who ‘unfriended’ me, most are colleagues. Several have Phds. One was a very dear friend. And all of them are politically liberal or progressive.
My experience is apparently not that unusual.
Last year, the Pew Research Journalism Project found that ‘liberals are more likely to ‘unfriend’ you over politics – online and off’.
According to the research, 44 per cent of self identified liberals stated they had unfriended, blocked or banned someone because of their political views. This compares to less than one third (31 per cent) of conservatives doing the same.
However, the researchers purport to explain this statistic away by stating that conservatives have lower levels of diversity in their ‘online ecosystem’. But is this actually true? Or could it be that the tolerance and inclusion brigade happen to be less tolerant and inclusive that there conservative peers, or indeed, less tolerant and inclusive than they believe themselves to be? Heaven forbid!
The jury is still out on this particular matter. Perhaps the Pew Center could commission another study to find out?
It’s your XYZ