Social Media

The politics of unfriending

I’m not sure what to make of this— or even if it’s worth making anything of it at all.

Data from the Pew Research Journalism Project shows that conservatives are less likely to have their views challenged on social media — but liberals are more likely to block or unfriend someone online because they disagree with something they have posted.

Those that Pew describes as “consistent conservatives” are twice as likely as the average Facebook user to say that posts about politics on the social network are “mostly or always” in line with their own views, according to a survey the organization performed this spring — with 47 percent saying their views dominate the conversations they see.

Of those identified as “mostly conservative,” 28 percent agreed with the sentiment vs. 32 percent of “consistently liberals” and just 13 percent of “mostly liberal” users. This suggests that liberals see a wider range of views on social media than their conservative counterparts.

However, that doesn’t mean liberals necessarily like all of the ideas they see. Consistent liberals were the most likely group to block or unfriend someone because they disagreed with their political postings, with 44 percent saying they had “hidden, blocked, defriended, or stopped following someone” on Facebook due to their political postings. Only roughly one-third (31 percent) of consistent conservatives had done the same — although this might be attributable to lower levels of ideological diversity in their online ecosystem.

I have an extremely neglected Facebook page, but I routinely accept friend requests– at least half of them from people I don’t know. The only person I’ve ever unfriended is Yvonne Ridley. Yes, that Yvonne Ridley. For mysterious reasons she once sent me a friend request, and for equally mysterious reasons I accepted. I unfriended her when she expressed pleasure about a report that the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit had converted to Islam during his captivity by Hamas. (He hadn’t.)

It’s entirely possible that conservatives are more tolerant of liberals than vice versa. At the conservative website Townhall.com, a number of commenters lamented that they had been unfriended by liberals over political differences. But at least one comment (from americathebeautiful) proved that rightwing intolerance is alive and well:

As a proud Conservative, I have unfriended several flaming liberal/socialists I use to know. Their abject betrayal of America is much more than I can tolerate. It isn’t because they disagree with me, it IS because they HATE America and HATE Conservatives and HATE civilized life. They love Communism/socialism and they love killing babies and they love smarmy slime people like obama and dirty harry and pelosi and every one of those lousy dems.

I would consider it a privilege and a relief to be unfriended by someone like that.

Have you ever unfriended (or been unfriended by) someone for political reasons?

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