“Mrs. B said you unfriended her,” was how Mama greeted me one day on the phone.
“I did no such of a thing,” I replied.
“She said you did.”
“She doesn’t have her facts straight.”
Mama tsked tsked at my comment, finding it disrespectful, I am sure.
“So, you didn’t unfriend her?”
“No, I haven’t unfriended anyone,” I answered. “Why does she think I have?”
“Because she was trying to Facebook you – am I saying that right? And she went to your profile, but you were no longer friends.”
“Maybe she unfriended me,” I said.
“She was quite adamant you unfriended her,” Mama said. “I think it was one of the main reasons she called me today.”
This lady had worked with my Mama for 30 years and I had known her for practically my whole life. I knew she and Mama didn’t always agree on things, politics especially, which she shared her opinions about on Facebook zealously, but I didn’t let that bother me.
Evidently, Mrs. B was concerned enough about what may have prompted an unfriending that she called Mama.
I assured Mama I had not unfriended her friend and tried to go about my day but could not. Curiosity got the better of me.
I was able to still view Mrs. B’s profile, and our last exchange was on her birthday a few months earlier. Somehow, I had posted my birthday wish to her six times and I wondered if that prompted any punitive action on her part.
As I scrolled through the social media site, I noticed that I was down a few more friends.
Some had deactivated and a few had unfriended me.
I knew I had lost some friends a few years back when I stated my opinion about something, and they disagreed with me. Instead of allowing someone to have their own opinion, unfriending was the new response. One was someone I had known most of my life, and it stung for a few days but, I realized the negativity he liked to share was not what I wanted in my feed. So, I peacefully let him go.
Even though I have gotten to where I only use the site to look at cat memes and videos on occasion, I wondered what I had done.
It made me pause and think about how our relationships have changed so much since the platform first launched.
Before social media, we used to keep our opinions to ourselves, or at the very least, were able to discuss them civilly.
Now, people make nasty comments on public pages for all to see, and sometimes I am shocked at the hate and nastiness they share. It is unsettling and makes my stomach hurt to see some of the ugliness that is spread on social media because people find it so easy to hide behind their keyboard or phone.
When Facebook first came out, it was supposed to bring us closer together and help us connect; now, it is just one more thing dividing us.
We don’t talk to people anymore, thinking if we ‘like’ their status update or photo, we are somehow communicating.
We have forgotten how to be civil and disagree about things, instead unfriending or unfollowing so we don’t have to see anything other than posts that support our cognitive bias.
It’s easy to judge one another on social media, and make assumptions just based on a few simple posts or things they share.
Or we compare ourselves to our friends, which sometimes leads to jealousy and bitterness.
In so many ways, social media has made us lose our connection to those closest to us and gave us more reasons to hate total strangers.
I had not unfriended Mama’s friend. But I did wonder what had happened, just as I wondered what happened with the other connections I no longer had. At the same time, I realized, some people use Facebook for different purposes and maybe their use of it had changed.
Even more so, I wondered how we had allowed an app take the place of face-to-face interactions and civility. It made me sad and yearn for a pre-Facebook era, where we were more civil and respectful, and could agree to disagree. I know it makes me sound awfully old, but it was a much more pleasant time.
I thought about how we have another election coming up next year. The nastiness would only prove to be worse; I was certain.
By the time it was all over, none of us may have any friends left.
“Maybe,” Mama said when I told her all of this. “If everyone got off of Facebook, all the world’s problems would be solved -- instead of started on there.”
She very well may be right.