Recently, social media has – once again – turned rather divisive. With recent political events taking place people are once again unfriending each other at alarming rates. You’ve probably seen many people declare – If you agree with person at the center of the controversy , you can unfriend me now!!!! It works in the inverse as well – If you disagree with person at the center of the controversy , you can unfriend me now!!!!
It seems whenever something happens in the news surrounding politics, people take a quick, decisive and divisive stand by cutting out people whose views they aren’t aligned.
Is unfriending on social media a wise move or an immature one?
Of course it depends why you’re unfriending someone. Sometimes it is the smartest thing you can do. For example – unfriending an ex is usually the fastest way to get over a broken relationship. It’s not healthy to keep track of an ex through their social media updates and it certainly doesn’t help you to move on with your life. In this situation unfriending is not only wise, but recommended.
On the other hand, if you’re unfriending people who hold different beliefs than you, it might be time to do some reflecting.
Unfriending toxic people is perfectly understandable. There are always going to be people who rub us the wrong way or who we simply don’t like. However, unfriending a friend who’s only fault was to have a different viewpoint is immature and can stifle growth.
Our brains are constantly developing. While our brains are fully formed by the age of around 6, the neural connections take decades and continue throughout our lives. If your brain is being challenged, your brain is growing and synapses are making connections. Shutting down meaningful discussion because you don’t like opposing views is not only immature, but it prevents growth from taking place.
Unfriending on Social Media: Immature or Wise?
If you’ve found yourself unfriending a lot lately you might want to take stock of why you’re doing it.
It’s the Cause!
For many activists the cause is the be all and end all. A tunnel vision takes hold and it’s nearly impossible to connect with anyone who doesn’t align with your beliefs. You live, work and breathe the cause so it can be difficult if not outright impossible to consider there might be other points of view. If you’re trying to change the world by changing laws, policies or elections, it might be in your best interest to listen to what the opposing side has to say. You can’t persuade someone to accept your viewpoint if you shut them down and shut them out.
It’s about Me
Sadly, many people who publicly declare their love or hate for a particular policy, candidate or movement are more interested in their accolades they get on social media in the form of “likes”, “hearts”, “claps” and other forms of social media acknowledgement. If you live to see you have 25 likes after declaring your hate for the latest public figure who stuck his or her foot in their mouth, it might not really be the cause that get’s you so fired up.
Some people prefer to live their lives in a bubble and social media is no exception. It’s quite normal to want to be around like minded people. This is how humans managed to evolve over time. Groups are important – they provide us with security, stability and provide a sense of belonging. If you’re in a group of any kind – family, friends, book club, biker gang – you know there’s someone who has your back when the going gets rough. That is a powerful and wonderful feeling. It gives us confidence to do the things we’re afraid to try and it provides a posse of sorts to back us up when we screw up. But there’s a difference between a strong social group and an echo chamber. In an echo chamber new and different thoughts are not entertained or allowed. There is no growth and to change your mind is not tolerated. In fact, if your belief does evolve, you’ll probably be removed from the group – scary stuff.
Another reason people unfriend other people on social media is actually in response to all the unfriending. You may have made the cut, and not been unfriended, however you might find you’re sick of the unfriending and do everyone a favor by unfriending the unfriender. This might actually be a healthy unfriending.
The bottom line is it’s good to know people with different points of views and beliefs. Certainly toxic people or those who spew hate are worthy of the unfriending process, but for those people who hold a different political point of view, it might be worth your time to learn why they do, rather than to 86 them from your life. We can all learn new things no matter how old we get. Our brains are always making new connections. We don’t have to agree with everyone, but everyone can add interesting and compelling viewpoints to the mix.
Dr. Janna Fond lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children. When not seeing clients, playing with her kids or working on her latest manuscript, she enjoys cycling, yoga and relaxing on the beach.