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Friday, February 16, 2018

We asked, you answered: the politics of unfriending

Last week we asked our facebook fans: "Do you unfriend people who disagree with you about abortion? Why or why not?"

The overwhelming majority answered no. A few said they would unfriend a pro-choicer under specific circumstances. No one gave an unqualified yes.
Jennifer B.: No. For lots of reasons, including: (1) Those people are still my friends. If I can engage with them, even better, but I'm also interested in *why* they're pro-choice. (2) Turning Facebook into your own personal echo chamber doesn't make you better at arguing your points. (3) You don't change minds by trying to silence people. Unfriending them, to me, would make it seem like I'm afraid of what they might say.
John B.: Nope. They're the people I'm trying to reach.  
Maureen E.: I would have to unfriend my own husband.
Jane C.: I try not to unfriend people with different beliefs unless they are consistently unkind to me or my loved ones.
Jonathan S.: It would be dumb and insular to unfriend someone because they disagree with me on an issue; even an issue as important as the abortion issue. We won't change hearts and minds by ostracizing anyone who disagrees with us.
Scott C.: I have to a few. They just said things I found reprehensible. One told me that not only do men have no say, women have the right to keep it a secret from the fathers. Another nicknamed her baby “parasite” on some pregnancy tracking app.
Sarah G.: No. For the same reason I lift weights: Resistance makes me stronger. I could never fortify my arguments against abortion unless I had opposition. I can't defeat the enemy unless I know him. I can't gain allies if I can't talk to them into switching sides first.
Andy A.: I only unfriend/block stalkers and people who creep me out. I like keeping people who disagree with my ideology because it paves the way for good conversations and debates.
Owen E.: No, in the hope that keeping lines of communication open may lead to them changing their minds. Also knowing what your ideological opponents think and feel is good - both to understand their view and to humanize them.
Sean H.: I mean I used to be the guy I disagree with and I changed my mind, why block people?
Unprompted, a secondary theme quickly emerged...
Arkadiusz K.: Unfriending them is just like giving up. Usually they unfriend me.
Sarah T.: No. Never once have. But a lot of them have unfriended me. Including, recently, a friend I've know for over 30 years. My crime was posting a picture from an embryology textbook of a 20 week preborn baby in the womb on her status supporting late term abortion. My words were "this is what a baby/fetus looks like at 20 weeks. I oppose late term abortion." This was apparently enough to get me unfriended and blocked.
Joanna W.: Typically not, although I make an exception if they are behaving badly on my wall (name-calling, profanity, etc.) and won’t knock it off. I have been unfriended by many pro-choicers, though, and likely unfollowed by many more. 
Jason B.: Never had to. They usually unfriend me first.
Anna S.: I only unfriend people if they’re disrespectful. I make a point to follow groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood. I have been unfriended hella times, though.
Sharyn T.: No, but I've been unfriended and blocked before for opposing abortion (even if we agree on everything else.) 
Donna M.: No, but they've unfriended me. I lived.
If pro-lifers are keeping pro-choice friends in order to give them a new perspective on abortion, while pro-choicers are unfriending pro-lifers and retreating into an echo chamber, that could be a major factor in the success of the pro-life movement in the social media era.

Joshua M. commented: "Studies actually show that liberals are more likely to unfriend because of politics." He's right. We'll be the first to affirm that liberal/pro-choice and conservative/pro-life do not map over each other completely, but the anecdotal evidence above suggests that the unfriending pattern does carry over into the abortion debate.

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