The staff editorial is the majority opinion of The Murray State News Editorial Board.
When Nov. 8 comes around and we find out who the next president of the United States is, citizens will have a choice to make: to further separate themselves from the friends and family who voted differently than they did, or to stop the caustic feuding and mend damaged relationships.
It’s a significant choice to make – one that is more directly related to the well-being of each individual than a vote – and one that could either permanently sever or restore friendships ruined by political differences. With friends and family members, this could mean having uncomfortable face-to-face apology sessions or painful rehashings of personal philosophies and motivations.
Will our online friendships be remedied in the same way, or could they take even more effort to rebuild?
The debate of whether or not to “unfriend” those who have political opinions that differ from ours is not a simple one. Even our Editorial Board was divided when discussing the issue, which hinges on not only political values, but moral and ethical ones.
On social media sites like Facebook, the process of removing a friend is all too simple: one click and that person’s views – however unpoliticized they may be for the rest of the year – are gone forever.
Out of sight, out of mind, right?
This becomes more complex, though, when dealing with online friendships that also extend into our physical lives. Grandma can be deleted from our daily timeliness, but she can’t be deleted from Thanksgiving dinner or the family gift exchange. At some point, we must face the physical profile of the virtual one we clicked away.
But for relationships that are purely virtual, is it wrong to remove someone whose views are in direct conflict with ours? Some people see the act as painless and inconsequential. To them, they do not owe their pretend virtual friendship to someone who has offensive, backward or potentially threatening beliefs. Why should we be required to entertain unproductive relationships when they hinder our own happiness? Why subject ourselves to becoming angry about others’ views if we can delete them from our vision?
On the other side, some people see unfriending as a momentous act, one that could cause unnecessary pain to people who simply think differently than they do. To them, having to encounter those problematic viewpoints is frustrating, sure, but it’s not worthy of removing that entire individual’s presence from their browser. Why get angry over conflicting opinions when we could either ignore them or try to genuinely understand that person’s beliefs? Doesn’t encountering opposing viewpoints only lead us to sharpening our own and solidifying our beliefs with logic and argument?
Both sides of the equation are valid; some people will completely agree with one side while not understanding the other, just as it is with politics.
While we, The Murray State News Editorial Board, could pick a side and encourage all of you readers to make one decision in particular – delete anyone you find offensive or don’t delete anyone – we aren’t going to do that, just as we aren’t going to tell you who to vote for.
This is your decision, and one that is contingent on your character and your values as a human being. If you have let this season influence you to the point of burning bridges, you’re either very decided on your views or you have spent too many hours debating your pixel-clad friends of the internet.
We cannot make this choice for you. We can’t even tell you whether or not respecting everyone – or the concept of that practice – is enough to determine your actions on the matter. It’s up to you and your brain, your heart, your gut.
Don’t take it lightly.