Scrolling through a Facebook timeline usually presents itself as a cathartic, mildly boring but largely pleasant experience. It is the number one way to procrastinate – more favourable than tidying and less exhaustible than swiping away on Tinder. If you were to scroll through a timeline now, you would most likely come across vines of cats, Drake dancing to ‘Hotline Bling’, or cats dancing with Drake with an old Nokia ringtone going off in the background. Someone will have written a status about how boring coursework is, which will have probably received around ten likes in agreement, a few friends will have updated their profile pictures, at least two people will have shared a timehop post; the timeline is usually a predictably but reasonably entertaining environment.
Then, out of the blue, you will see a post that doesn’t make you want to automatically click the like button. The old school friend you don’t speak to anymore has shared a very morally questionable post from a very morally questionable Facebook page. Or maybe they have written their own status; one that they have tried to word eloquently to express their views on a social topic, but have failed at concealing their uneducated and intolerant views. What do you do? Do you just scroll past as you shake your head and move onto the next Drake vine? Do you comment, explaining why their post is offensive and try to show them a reasoned point of view? Do you screenshot it and send it to your friendship group’s WhatsApp feed for a good bitching session? What do you do when you find that one of your Facebook friends is a bigot/racist/homophobe/ sexist/generic tool?
In the instances where said Facebook friend is more of an acquaintance that you never see, or even a random add, de-friending is a pretty obvious and easy decision to make. Then you have those friends who you used to be close with at school – they may have even been your best friend during your teen years – but you have drifted apart from since moving to a different part of the country for university. Defriending them might not go unnoticed, but you are probably unlikely to receive an angry phone-call, demanding to know why you decided to virtually cut them out of your lives. Then again, this rules out the ability to occasionally Facebook stalk their lives, to see what they are up to these days and find if they are at all successful – the 21st century version of a school reunion.
Additionally, a small part of me believes it’s a good idea to keep them as Facebook friends, to take off the rose-tinted glasses every now and then and remember that the world isn’t all rainbows, kittens and fun clubbing photos. It’s far better to be an occasionally riled realist than painfully naïve.
The difficulty lies within the Facebook friends you see on a regular basis. How can you defriend someone who you so often interact with over the social media site, or in real life? What if they go to tag you in a photo and find that you are no longer friends? What if they ask you about it? The awkwardness would be excruciating. Then again, how could you possibly look at them again in the same way after seeing they have voiced a transphobic opinion about Caitlyn Jenner, shared a racist post from the ‘Britain First’ page or have ‘statused’ their unsavoury views on the role of the Syrian refugees in the recent Paris attacks?
You could comment, but then you might find yourself caught up in a very long and arduous “discussion”, where like minded individuals hit the ‘like’ button for the comments they already agree with and nothing is ever really resolved. No one in the history of Facebook has ever received a response to a prejudiced post and thought “actually, you’re right, immigration IS a good idea after all, Corbyn’s a top bloke! Let’s have pierogi instead of pigs in blankets this Christmas!”
Then you have the fuckboys who will continue to share sexist LAD Bible posts about bitches and hos till they die. Those people will never change; engagement is futile and if you try, you will only be ordered to find a sense of humour (bite is still searching for one of their own).
The best thing you can do is check yourself whenever you share something or write a status. Just for a second, ask “who is this going to off end, is it going to make me look like a knob?” At the very least, make sure your profile is set to private – employers are far less forgiving than nosey ex-school mates.