If you are opinionated (as I am) and occasionally contentious (as I can be) and sometimes cranky like me (guilty) you will eventually find yourself blocked by someone on Facebook. Or several someones. Often I don’t even notice, as the people doing the blocking are not people I know (in real life or in Facebook) but just someone on the other side of an opinion in one of many forums.
To be fair, I’ve done my share of blocking. Frequently. I have very low tolerance for name calling for instance, and if you want me to block you, that’s a quick and direct method. Similarly, threats against me or my family, a volley of expletives (again with the name calling) or the realization that you are that sleazy animal rights stalker from Southern California-in-yet-another-guise will get you the boot.
However I rarely block anyone, particularly people I know, because I’ve disagreed with something they’ve said. Nor do I un-friend them for their political persuasions, religious beliefs, eating habits or opinions. I have many friends (not just in cyber world, but in real life) and indeed, family members, who don’t vote the way I do, express their spirituality in a different fashion and have vastly disparate opinions from mine. I don’t love them any the less for it. How boring would it be if we all went around in lockstep?
(Quite boring. I can say that while I was in Boston, probably all of my friends fit neatly into one little demographic. Montana changed all that, and the best thing I carried away from that place –other than my husband– was learning to see people as something beyond their collective sentiment.)
This is not to say that I’m not dismayed or even irritated by some of the things I see posted on Facebook. I have learned to use the “hide this” button and if the poster is zealous and prolific in their postings I click “unfollow.” That person and I are still friends, I can still look in on them, I still value them and their (sometimes wrongheaded) opinions. No doubt I have been “unfollowed” a lot. I know that I can be intense. I used to apologize for it, but not any more. It would be like apologizing for having a German car, or liking dogs or having green eyes. It is what it is. I try to rein it in enough so as not to be too rude.
Because I am direct, and plain-spoken, often my opinions are thought “rude” or “condescending” or even contemptuous when none of that was ever intended. We have yet to figure out a way to do rueful or ironic or wry in social media and being that those qualities are so often a part of my self-expression– well, I am often Misunderstood.
Since I am a professional writer, this has been a source of great frustration for me. I should be able to make my own voice easy to understand. I think the difference is that I don’t distinguish between writing an essay and writing a comment. Someone told me once that I’d have fewer problems if I learned to “dumb it down,” but that’s not going to happen. And anyway, I don’t have a low opinion of the people who I’m communicating with, at least not until they give me a reason to have that opinion.
This is all a very long introduction to saying that today I discovered I’d been blocked by a high-school classmate. I don’t know how long this block has been in place or why. There was no disagreement, not even a heated discussion. Or any discussion at all. In truth, I’d “unfollowed” her quite a long time ago, for reasons that are not important here.
I went to high school in Prince Edward Island, Canada. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky in this way. When I realized that one of the Canadian gold medalists at this year’s winter Olympics was a fellow alumna, I was thrilled. I wasn’t the prom queen, or the most popular girl in school, I didn’t get the lead in the school play. (I was the editor of the high school paper. Some roles are cast early.) But I remember high school as a place where I was as content and happy as any 16-year-old has a right to be. I had lots of friends, and some of those friendships have survived nearly 40 years, even without benefit of social networking. With the advent of Facebook, I’ve been blessed to reconnect with so many more.
Not everybody though. I don’t think I’ve had a friend request from anyone from Three Oaks Senior High School that I’ve ignored or refused, but I understand why some people didn’t send me one. Fine. No big deal. Just like in high school, you don’t have to be friends with everyone. I am “Facebook friends” with my high school boyfriend, with whom I had a serious and overly intense relationship for three years. When I saw him again a couple of years ago he introduced me to his nearly grown-up daughter as “someone who went to Three Oaks at the same time (he) did.” Geez. You think he might have at least said we were friends.
Never mind. The gist of it is that I had fun in high school and liked the people there. So today, when my old friend Anne was writing about the gym room her wonderful husband has built for her, and I saw that she was answering questions that I couldn’t see, I asked her who it was. Because I was really surprised that someone from school would block me. Not want to be friends? Okay, sure. But block me?
When Anne told me who it was, I laughed.
In a way, it was more emotionally honest of this woman to have blocked me than to have ever have been my Facebook “friend.” She didn’t like me in high school, though we had many friends in common and she was never openly hostile. But she never let an opportunity pass to score off of me. If she thought she could quietly wound me, she went for it. She was one of the first instances of “backstabber” that I’d had to deal with. The O’Jays had it right: they smile in your face.
The thing was that everybody wants people to like them. I wanted her to like me. She liked my friends, why didn’t she like me? So when she sent me a “friend request” a few years ago, I accepted it, and I was pleased. That’s a little pathetic, isn’t it?
Who knows why she sent me a friend request. Maybe it was some kind of passive-aggressive thing. But it didn’t take long before there were clues that 35 years after we’d graduated she didn’t like me any better than she did in high school. I don’t know what I did or said or posted finally that made her hit the “block” button, and I don’t care. In a way I’m grateful that she took the step that revealed the truth that she glossed over for more than three decades. It’s a relief, truly, to not pretend anymore.