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The Day Before the Day After the Election

This is what changed.

A long time ago, before social media, when people spoke to me, they tailored the conversation to what they sensed was a common ground between us and avoided minefields, and I tailored the conversation to what I sensed was that very same common ground between us and avoided minefields, and that was — for the most part — how I communicated with people.  For instance, if my friend had a Romney lawn sign in front of her house and I had an Obama lawn sign in front of my house, we’d know that we may not be the best people with whom to discuss the election, and if we talked about the candidates at all, it would be in a lighthearted manner or the importance of voting in general.

We both knew that we weren’t going to convince each other of our point-of-view, but we had the potential to do great damage to the relationship by arguing, so we both politely went our way in order to preserve our friendship.  The same is true for many emotionally-charged topics from current events to religion as well as the appropriateness of topics.  I didn’t talk about punk rock with my grandparents, choosing instead to save those conversations for my friends just because I didn’t want to be annoying.  And I didn’t have deep conversations about Judaism with my Christian friends unless it was to answer one of their questions since I didn’t think they’d want to hear (nor understand) my thoughts on kitniyot.

And we all lived in relative peace, save for the occasional asshole.

And then came Facebook and Twitter and suddenly, everyone needed to tell everyone else everything.

During the last election, great-aunts and PTA presidents didn’t have their act together to utilize the sites in all their glory.  But this election?  My G-d, we moved from benign status updates recounting everything a person ate in a day to horrifically offensive name calling in the name of supporting a candidate.

In my Facebook and Twitter feeds, people whom I considered to be my friends — both in the face-to-face sense and in the sure-I’ll-add-you-as-a-friend-on-Facebook sense — inadvertently called me an idiot, a bitch, a whiner, and a steaming pile of crap.

I fully expect people who don’t like me to call me these things.  But when you write something along the lines of “anyone who votes for Obama is a fucking idiot,” what you’ve done is call me a fucking idiot.  And then that same person asked if I wanted to go in on a Groupon together in the next status update.  I really didn’t know what to do because she just called me a fucking idiot but also wanted to know if I wanted to go in on a Groupon.  Normal social behaviour would dictate that I walk away from you if I had a shred of self-esteem.  But we’re also being told not to take social media too seriously, and that it’s ridiculous to unfriend people due to things said on Facebook.  So I’m really between a rock and a hard place.

Because I don’t actually want to be someone’s friend anymore once they’ve inadvertently called me a fucking idiot.

The reality is that if I spoke directly with the people who have written these things, they would tell me that they weren’t talking about me.  Except that if someone makes a statement such as “anyone who votes for Obama is a fucking idiot,” they are talking about me because I am voting for Obama.  I am in that faceless crowd they were denigrating.  We’re actually made up of humans.  And when we’re called fucking idiots, our feelings get hurt.

We’re responsible for what we say, but we’re also responsible for what we type.  We’re even responsible for the things we retweet or like or share.

Before social media, we tailored our conversations to each person rather than trying to interact with everyone all at once.  And if we had to share something en masse, we did so politely and with restraint.  Hurtful words, back then, were spoken and though the memory of them remained, I didn’t have to look at them over and over again every time I opened up a social media platform.  All those times we were called idiots, bitches, whiners, and steaming piles of crap (since all sides engaged in this name calling) are still floating for eternity through the Internet.  And they can be called up again at a moment’s notice.

I wish we’d go back to those days when we’d remember that after the election, we’d all still need to be neighbours, so it would be best if we tried to shape the world through kind actions and kind words, asking people to consider another point-of-view rather than berating them.

Back then, we also realized that there were people who weren’t going to change and we left them to be assholes while holding them at arms length.

I’m not just thinking about who is going to lead the country for the next four years today.  I’m also wondering how to repair relationships after all the vitriol I’ve read from this election.  Not the stating of beliefs because I’m always game to listen to the stating of beliefs that are different from my own.

It’s the name calling that did me in.


1 Stupid Stork { 11.05.12 at 8:32 pm }

Here, here.

1. I am happily without religion and absolutely want to hear your thoughts on kitniyot.

2. Aww, but she offered you a groupon? Doesn’t that make you feel better? 😉

I could definitely be considered an ‘obnoxious liberal’ by some, I’m sure, because my profile picture is currently a ‘women for obama’ picture and when a politician says something dumb I say ‘this politician is dumb’.

I have had many-a-people in my newsfeed, too, say that I am clearly ‘uneducated’ (humph) and am clearly some sort of dependent. (Again, of course they’re not talking about me – just all Obama voters in general).

I genuinely think social media is supposed to ‘bring people closer’ when really it just seems to be a great way to dislike people you may have otherwise liked. (Because agreed.. it’s near impossible to like someone after they’ve lumped you into the idiot category).

2 Anjali { 11.05.12 at 8:47 pm }

I couldn’t agree more.

3 serenity { 11.05.12 at 8:56 pm }

It’s funny, because just TONIGHT I saw a post from someone who said “Anyone who votes for Romney is an idiot. There. I said it.”

And all I could think was, wow, she broke ALL rules of friendship, of caring for any of her friends, of common decency. Because it’s personal to call someone an idiot because they happen to like a candidate you don’t. It’s personal, and it’s just WRONG.

(And for the record, it wasn’t even MY feelings hurt. I’m going to vote for Obama.)

I swear, I cannot deal with politics being so in my face on social media right now. I have always avoided talking about politics and religion with people I care about, because I respect that we have different opinions.

The haters, though – they came out in FB moments after President Obama was elected. And I absolutely cannot deal with them anymore. On either side.


4 Battynurse { 11.05.12 at 9:01 pm }

Very well said. I’ve mostly kept quiet on FB about my political leanings or beliefs because I HATE confrontation and I just don’t want to deal with it on FB. I’ve also seen posts by friends (usually some mass shared cartoon or flyer or something) that I hugely disagree with that I want so dang badly to comment on but don’t basically for the above reason and because I truly can’t see myself being able to remain friends with some one if they called me an idiot either directly or indirectly.

5 sharah { 11.05.12 at 9:01 pm }

For me (because I have had similar interactions the last few months), I come back to a) she never paid enough attention to what I really believe to know that I don’t agree with her and/or b) she doesn’t care about our friendship enough to care that I was insulted and/or c) she is so clueless to not realize why the comment is so insulting. In a few cases, I’ve decided to continue the friendship at arm’s length, but for most of them, I don’t want those kinds of people teaching my children their worldview and cut them out of my life.

6 Delenn { 11.05.12 at 9:25 pm }

This is really interesting to me because I feel that you are correct in saying that it has ramped up this election versus other years.

This American Life had a really thought provoking piece this weekend about this subject.

Think I will put the link for it on my Facebook status.


7 Kristin { 11.05.12 at 9:55 pm }

This American’s Life’s last episode, aired this weekend, was about political divides. It was great, and I would recommend it. Tomorrow. If our God is good, it will all end decisively tomorrow. That is all we can ask for. Please end!

8 Brid { 11.05.12 at 10:02 pm }

It’s really a shame because these types of media could really provide an opportunity for people to be exposed to world views other than their own. I would certainly be highly disappointed with a friend if she were to state something like that… and even if it wasn’t directed at me, but just that she would be so careless with others. There’s just no place anywhere for that… I just don’t understand contributing if it’s not productive in some way. I am sorry to hear you have to deal with such things; it really takes away from the special day… I, like you, always take my little one to vote, and ultimately end up choked up as I consider the steps taken by other women and men, so that I can stand there and make my choice count. Comments like the one your friend made goes against everything democratic, and really, so sadly denigrates the great struggles that amazing women before us endured for us to be able to take part in this process.

9 battynurse { 11.05.12 at 10:09 pm }

So now I have an update. I’m more annoyed now at all the political stuff on FB. A friend posted a poster that stated: Election day prediction: Obama will take an early lead until all the Republicans get off work. This irritates and annoys me. It assumes that everyone voting for Obama is unemployed and doesn’t work. Yet I voted for Obama and I hold a job and definitely do work. Can’t wait until all this crap is over.

10 S.I.F. { 11.05.12 at 11:07 pm }

This is without a doubt one of the best, and saddest, things I have read in a long time. I haven’t even wanted to open up my Facebook lately because I have feared that what I see will make me hate people I actually love. Not because our views differ, but because it turns out they are the kind of nasty people who spread that vitriol online. And I don’t really want to be friends with someone who inadvertently calls me a fucking idiot either.

I am definitely ready for this whole election to be over. It shouldn’t ever be like this. Intelligent and thoughtful people shouldn’t converse like this. And it just spells out everything that is wrong with our country today oh so clearly.

11 a { 11.05.12 at 11:12 pm }

You know, I think those things about people who hold particular beliefs, but I don’t write them down (or say them) anywhere. It’s very difficult for me when I go to work, because I am one of a very few liberals roaming about the building…and we’re all members of one of the largest public employee unions in the country. So, um, voting Republican may mean that the dickhead downstairs who should have been fired for his favoritism and sexually charged comments could very well have the control over your livelihood that he’s always wanted. But, hey, you go on with your bad self, and do what you need to do. However, please confine your whining about the pension debacle that we’re currently experiencing to people who also voted against their own self interests, because I don’t want to hear it any more. Phew! Glad I got that off my chest.

Fortunately for me, I don’t really discuss politics with my close friends. Or, I know what motivates them, and can let things go. Sometimes, I just want to watch acquaintances make asses of themselves and wait for the inevitable fallout. I do enjoy a good trainwreck. So, come Wednesday (or however long it takes), I can’t wait to see the status updates. I can only hope that people will be more respectful of the president when he wins a second term. 🙂

*Note: this is not to say that I approve of everything President Obama has done. I have found him lacking in many areas. However, the conservative stance on women’s rights is going all Handmaid’s Tale on me, and I will not tolerate that. I hated that book.

12 Another Dreamer { 11.05.12 at 11:35 pm }

What a great post. Well done, I couldn’t agree more.

13 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.06.12 at 12:09 am }

You nailed it, the difference this time around. It’s the tailoring.

It’s only recently that masses of people have had the opportunity to address masses of people. So nuance and tailoring has gone. (Maybe this is one place in which G+ can shine — have Circles that enable you to tailor your message. Use “steaming pile of crap” only in certain Circles.)

In various issues, I’m too liberal for some and too conservative for others, so I’ve felt the slurs from all sides. From people who, if they really believed that about me, wouldn’t want to be my Friend. And who would also never say such things to my face.

I think this is part of why I’ve been feeling so lousy. This stuff, this antipathy — it’s weighty.

14 Thebluestbutterfly { 11.06.12 at 12:40 am }

I actually had a friend say they were going to un-friend people who were voting for Romney. It made me wonder about the friendship. *Sighing and shaking head.*

15 Jen { 11.06.12 at 1:51 am }

Twitter and Facebook have been driving me absolutely and completely nuts regarding politics. I’m a fiscal conservative but socially (right across the line) liberal. In the infertile community, I definitely feel in the minority. More than anything, I just wish there were more facts, less talk, and more people voting…because I believe in the will of the people. Happy (almost) election day!

16 KnottedFingers { 11.06.12 at 7:03 am }

I recently dealt with a woman who posted on her facebook after having a long discussion with me that

‘Any of my Christian friends who vote for Obama and support Gay Marriage are not really walking with Christ. I’m praying for their souls so they don’t end up in Eternal Damnation’

And I was totally like ‘Are you KIDDING ME!?’ And deleted and blocked her. Seriously. That shit ain’t cool

17 Heather { 11.06.12 at 8:03 am }

The Facebook ‘friends’ that post that stuff are usually ONLY Facebook friends. Meaning, I don’t interact with them anywhere else but Facebook. I ignore, I move on with my day.
The people I interact with, that I have a real relationship with? None of them have posted anything about the election other than the generic: Go Vote!
My husband on the other hand… gets into it with the political stuff. However, I think that’s because more of his friends are more of the Republican/Conservative camp and we are firmly in the Democrat/Liberal camp.
Just like anything on the internet all human decency interactions go out the window because we are not face to face. People love to hide behind a computer.

18 Kimberly { 11.06.12 at 8:21 am }

I think part of the issue is that social media doesn’t lend itself to nuanced expression – I doubt she thinks everyone voting for Obama is actually a fucking idiot, and I am pretty sure she doesn’t think that about you specifically. But it’s easier to express her opinion like she did than craft a well-thought post and link to it.
I sometimes regret not ever using FB, and sometimes I’m really thankful for it.

19 Jeanna { 11.06.12 at 8:33 am }

I agree wholeheartedly. If you have a desire to discuss politics with someone, then do so, but don’t discuss politics over social media without sense or reason. I have been so frustrated by this and it IS enough to make you not want to be friends with someone.

My dad sent a political email the other day to his WHOLE family, knowing well and good that not everyone is voting the way he is. And he received emails back and my uncle had a fit (through email). I asked him why he felt the need to send the email in the first place, knowing the reactions he would get. I can’t forget to mention that my dad is not educated at all in the realm of politics and probably sent an email that contained no factual basis. The technological age already separates us by allowing us to hide behind computers; I’m amazed that it also has the power to further divide friendships and families.

20 Gail { 11.06.12 at 8:59 am }

I think a lot of people feel that they can say whatever they want online because they can’t see the person. Having face-to-face contact makes a big difference.

21 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.06.12 at 9:44 am }

At least you’re in the Twitter majority:

“40% of Twitter users are Democrats, compared to 30% of the U.S. population overall.”


22 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.06.12 at 9:45 am }

(Well, not majority, but leading party there.)

23 Beth { 11.06.12 at 10:28 am }

Thank you for this, Melissa. I hope you don’t mind that I shared it on FB. That seems a little ironic, but it’s a message that I want to put out there, yet don’t have the words to say it as eloquently as you have.

Here’s to tomorrow, and the hope that we can all still be friends, or at least friendly, when the results are in.

24 loribeth { 11.06.12 at 10:31 am }

Very true, Mel. It’s been a very nasty election (& I’m just an interested observer from north of the border…!). I had to hide some of my American relatives’ posts from my FB feed for the duration of the election. I’ve posted a few things that I thought were funny & not too offensive, regardless of your political leanings (come on, the whole “Binders Full of Women” meme was pretty funny, at least for the first 12 or 24 hours…), or thoughtful & reasonably balanced or realistic articles. I’ve wanted to post a whole lot more, but haven’t, because there’s enough bad feelings out there as it is, and it’s generally not in my nature to stir the pot.

As I posted on FB today — good luck, America — either way, I think you’re going to need it…

25 Lollipop Goldstein { 11.06.12 at 10:34 am }

I’m actually not bothered by anything that is directed at the candidates themselves. I mean, I don’t love some of the nastier stuff, but I also don’t expect them to be reading the person’s Facebook feed since they aren’t that person’s friend, so it’s not reaching the target. Whereas if I am someone’s friend and they are writing about their friends then the words are directed at me. And that’s where it changes for me. Post a political cartoon if you wish but don’t insult your friends.

26 N { 11.06.12 at 11:24 am }

Put much better than I ever could.

27 Lacie { 11.06.12 at 12:02 pm }

I went off of Facebook when my son was born. I just wanted to bow out for a minute and not be tempted to post his picture, his every coo and poo. I didn’t want to invade his privacy and that of his birth parents. Nor did I want to inadvertently make the sting of placing a baby for adoption any more intense than it already is. Both birthparents were my FB friends, so my situation was a little unchartered for me. I meant to go back on but never got around to it. Here I am, nine months later, and don’t miss it at all. Not one little bit. I find myself annoyed when people say things like, “Did you see so and so posted xyz on Facebook?” In my head, I say, “I can’t stand facebook. So no, I didn’t see that.” I do miss staying in touch with certain groups of people. But honestly, those who I am truly connected to text, e-mail, and call me.

This has nothing to do with the election. I just find Facebook generally irritating for the reasons you’ve mentioned above and so many more. I might be a hypocrite and go back on it at some point, but probably not any time soon.

Thankfully, I’ve been blissfully disconnected from FB during this election season.

28 nonsequiturchica { 11.06.12 at 3:46 pm }

In 2008 I shared posts about stupid things that Sarah Palin said/did and absolutely overshared my political beliefs. This election cycle I did not say one single thing about the election. I shared no graphic about how Obama was better for women and their bodies, no information about how Romney was a flip-flopper, etc. I figured that I wasn’t going to change anyone’s mind so why piss them off and/or ruin our friendship. It’s just not worth it.

29 Terrisse Arete { 11.08.12 at 2:04 am }

WOW! Yes FB def changed the way that people communicated their political beliefs this election not not in a positive way by far. I do not mind confrontation at all. I feel saddened that we have lost the art of discussion.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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