Why do “tolerant” people tend to delete others off their social media who do not share their views?

January 29, 2016 12:00 pm

Recently I have noticed a rather disturbing trend on social media platforms which seems to be especially prevalent on Facebook.

I pride myself on being able to interact with almost anyone.
In a near empty bar in some isolated location I am almost always the person
who will approach the sole local at the bar or strike up a conversation with staff.

I do this because I like people for the most part, I like to listen and I love to talk. Over the years I have tried to listen more and talk less, it’s a work in progress. I don’t make it a habit to intentionally discuss religion or politics when I barely know someone but occasionally in the course of the conversation it inevitable creeps in.

There are exceptions to the above interaction rule, sometimes the person doesn’t feel like talking and once in a while I myself am not in the mood to socialize. I am definitely not afraid of my own company and sometimes in fact, I prefer it.

Most of the time I strike up a conversation because I like to hear people’s points of views and I also like to see what makes them tick. Why do they feel this particular way about a particular issue? Are they steadfast in their view/s or is there room to move? How has their particular lifestyle/life experience shaped this view and impacted their thinking? These are just some of the questions I think of when conversing with someone on an issue or something that is their passion.

I have also accumulated friendships from a wide variety of backgrounds due to my nomadic nature and also because of the multitude of weird lifestyles I have so far lived. For example, I have lived in remote communities as well as metropolis’, served in the military, backpacked around the world, worked in a corporate environment, met siblings I didn’t even know existed when I was in my twenties, managed a hotel and even been homeless at one point in my life.
I have also worked several odd jobs from fishing to sales, marketing to running a business, bouncing in a nightclub to bar tending, working at a gun club to spending a few weeks on a chicken farm. The chicken farm was by far the worst experience out of the above random jobs but I still got something great out of it. The realization that I needed to go back to school, that suffering that horrible experience was not something I ever wanted to repeat.

Subsequently for example, my Facebook page is an eclectic mixture of people who if they were all gathered in a pub would have anyone scratching their heads, wondering how these people knew each other? I have friends who are from all races, religions, nations, regions and sexual orientations. I’ll be honest and say most of them are acquaintances and not friends but I do care enough about them to be open to socialization on social media. I have also caught up again with them in real life when time and situations permit.

The two common threads that many of them share with each other is that we are all human and they all in some capacity know me. This may have just been a single solitary meeting, we may have worked together or perhaps we traveled in a group for a while.

I don’t want to give the impression that I am a “Facebook whore”, I’ve been on Facebook for 8 years and have a bit north of a thousand “friends.” When I was younger I’d add people more but now I tend to be more scrupulous on who I add. This is purely because as I get older I realize my father was right when he said quality of friends is more important than quantity. I used to think he was a cranky old man who was anti social with the three or four good mates with whom he bothered to keep in contact. More of my friends came to his funeral than his did, not because they didn’t want to but he simply did not have many people with which he was close. This was a man who would give you the shirt off his back if he chose you as a friend and who would crawl across broken glass for you if you were fortunate to be held by him in high esteem. Back then I had thirty, sixty, maybe a hundred good mates or so I thought, everything he told me about friendship became true even though I never wanted to believe it. Now days I’d be super lucky to have ten true friends and in reality I think the number is probably closer to five.

Facebook succeeded as a social media platform because we are encouraged to add only people we know. And for the most part the vast majority of its users adhere to this policy, it gives it an air of exclusivity that other social media alternatives simply do not possess or fail to emulate.

So there is an air of familiarity there and with this an element or potential of friendship no matter how small or insignificant it is to either one or both parties involved.

Because of the wide net which I cast over my Facebook pond the eclectic group of individuals I have on there tend to naturally have differing views on all sorts of topics. Sometimes, well actually quite often this seems to cause conflict between others on my page or between someone else and myself.

I saw a brilliant meme a few months ago on face book. It stated, “People say I post too much about religion and politics. I’m sorry, I forgot social media was only for important things like pictures of your dinner or your cat.
By all means, post another selfie.”

I am guilty of cat and dinner pictures but thankfully they have remained separated so far. In a world where people get offended so easily now days I think it is almost dangerous to post about your views on religion, politics or any other from a handful of controversial topics because of the kick back from “offended people.” But it really should not be this way. A lot of people tend to get offended over the most stupid reason/s. If we bought dueling back in as a way of settling scores then there would be a hell of a lot fewer people taking offence with things.

Some people are extremely irrational when it comes to having a mature debate or even considering others points of view.

I find this especially true in what I like to deem head vs heart contrasting viewpoints. For example someone who is thinking from the heart or from an emotional/empathetic/idealistic standpoint will say, “we need to help the hundreds of thousands of refugees who are attempting to enter our nation.” While someone who is thinking from the head or from a traditionally logical/humanist/practical standpoint may say, “we simply cannot afford the costs that this will bring.”

Obviously I have simplified the terminology and arguments. I have not intentionally meant to put any negative terms on either side but I hope you understand my point. I know when I read this later I will think of much better adjectives.

In very simplistic terms, people who are coming from what I have termed the heart standpoint tend to be annoyed by what they perceive to be a lack of empathy/care. While people who are coming from the head standpoint tend to be annoyed by what they perceptive to be a lack of common sense/rationality. One or both parties can understandably become very frustrated.

The famous French philosopher Voltaire once said, “I may not agree with what you have to say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” As a former soldier and even before this occurred I have always held the freedom of speech in the highest regard.

It is not only personal viewpoints that is being critically analysed by people on Facebook but also humor. Humor nowadays is categorically seen as an offensive weapon by some regardless whether or not that was the intent of the poster. A meme that you may think is hilarious or at the very least something you think your friends will find amusing can cause a great (sometimes highly exaggerated) wound to someone who does not share your sentiment.

You on many occasions are also seen as responsible for others behavior/posts on your profile even if you do not agree with or condone their opinions. As someone who is not a fan of censorship I tend not to delete people’s posts off my page even if I downright disagree with that viewpoint. I do this because I despise hypocrisy and I do everything in my power not to be a hypocrite.

There would be some necessary exceptions to the rule but compared to most others I am very liberal when it comes to allowing what others choose to display on my page.

For me life is all about learning, exploring and cultivating your beliefs.
I have changed my mind about several issues multiple times through reading, researching and talking to others. I try to keep an open mind and approach things logically.

I would not say I am “progressive” in a lot of my views, well actually I am but not to the point that I have to challenge the status quo for the sake of challenging the status quo. I am certainly not ultra progressive which would be a better term for it and I still do hold onto some core traditional values. Due to my personality I can sometimes appear to be and even be abrupt, stubborn or steadfast. In reality, being these things is more a facade than anything else, the cogs are always turning and I am always open to learning.

One thing I have noticed is that some (not all) of my more “progressive” friends (for lack of a better term) on social media preach tolerance but in fact (most times inadvertently) do the opposite.

These people possess extremely empathetic points of view about certain issues/segments of the population under the guise of promoting tolerance. However if you are candid enough to challenge their thinking or more dangerously disagree all together you may soon find yourself a victim a tirade followed by execution via the delete button.

You could have been friends with this person for years, held them in the highest regard and really valued them. They may or may not have been aware of the last two points but due to their behavior have perhaps (not always so clear-cut) been unworthy of that admiration.

One of the prime examples of this is screaming the word Racism when this is clearly being used as a cop-out. This behavior is extremely crippling because it devalues the term and potentially could invoke a boy who cried wolf scenario in the future causing irreversible damage. Racism is absolutely disgusting but being falsely accused of being racist is just as disappointing. We are devaluing the word every time we misuse it.

Using cold hard facts and statistics or debunking their “facts” is also a tool that will get you deleted by your more tolerant friends. I have been wrong on many occasions and have welcomed the opportunity to learn; the opportunity to set the record straight. Not everyone is like this unfortunately. Rather than back their views with unbiased data its sometimes easier just to shit can the menace who dares to think differently and more inconveniently is brave enough to air those beliefs in a public domain.

How is it unprejudiced to express what is lauded as extremely tolerant beliefs but then delete someone from your social media and in most cases your life because they share or debate a different viewpoint? The resulting answer is that it is not, you cannot expect people to embrace your tolerant views while you act so narrow-minded. Sadly this is exactly what some people do expect. You can always agree to disagree with someone or skip their posts in your news feed but sadly this is all too often seen as worthy of the “too hard basket” or in Face Books case, the delete button.

My grandfather once told me, “it takes all types to make a world.” Thank heavens for that. Imagine how boring the world would be if everybody thought and acted the same? No matter how colorful, controversial, repugnant or unbelievably ridiculous someone’s views are we do have the power to choose how we react. If you want to delete someone who is fine but in my opinion you should first at least approach them about it. A good start would be to have a mature conversation about your concerns and try to find some common ground/end result. This is better than giving them an excuse or worse deleting them without consultation especially if you have a friendship that has lasted for a significant time. When this has happened to me it really made me feel on occasion as though I meant absolutely nothing to the person and this could inheritance be hurtful to certain individuals.

It is laughable that somebody preaches tolerance from their elevated soap box and then through their actions does the exact opposite. Not only is it laughable but it also makes them a hypocrite.

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  • Anthony French

    Brilliant article, I couldn’t agree more. Disturbingly, often you find that the most aggressive and closed-minded people are those who represent the ‘tolerance’ camp.

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