It had finally happened. About 6 months after reading about how to react to friends posting homophobic statements or links on Facebook, it finally happened to me as well. It was someone I wasn’t even particularly good friends with, a person I felt no greater connection to. Someone I had met once at an event and had not seen since, but nonetheless someone I had quite liked at the time. Someone who seemed like a nice enough person.
This is probably why it came as such a surprise to me to see this person had posted a link I found offensive, and slightly homophobic. To my shock I found out I was friends with someone who didn’t support LGBT equality, making me wonder how well I actually knew the people I accepted a friend request from.
I have been out to pretty much everyone since I was 17 years old, and even if I don’t tell every random person I meet, it usually comes out pretty early on once I get to know someone. Especially if they become my Facebook friends and are able to see my relationship status. Therefore I somehow assumed that people who had a problem with my sexuality would not become my friends in the first place. However, just as I may be reluctant to explicitly come out as gay to everyone I meet, so would the more homophobic amongst us also wish to remain undiscovered for their opinions.
Nonetheless as the post of a petition against equal marriage popped up on my newsfeed I was faced with a decision much similar to the one many of my friends seemed to find themselves making after the Woolwich attack in London. After the attack most people poured onto Facebook either to post offensive and Islamophobic statements or rage out against the first group of people. This begged the question of what to do when faced with Facebook friends who you disagree with on a fundamental level? Much like we have done with relationships for years, perhaps it was time to come up with some Facebook deal-breakers.
There were three ways in which the situation with my homophobic Facebook friend could end. Scenario number 1 would be simple. I would delete this person as a friend. Chances were I was never going to see them again anyway, and based on what they had posted I assumed I wasn’t the kind of person they were looking for as a friend. Yet it seemed almost cruel to just cut someone out because I disagreed with them. If I deleted this person would that then make me narrow-minded and unable to tolerate difference?
Scenario number 2 required even less effort. I could just ignore the whole thing. Let the person have their opinion, keep them as a friend, possibly unsubscribe to them and move on with my life. Maybe something would happen to change the current situation in which I was increasingly starting to dislike this person. But then what was the point in having someone as a friend in they weren’t actually my friend. That would just make me one of those people who wanted Facebook friends for the sake of it.
The final scenario however was the most terrifying. It meant confrontation. I would have to engage the person, comment on the post, or start a debate hoping that if they knew how their actions were making people feel they may change their mind. This had the possibility of making me feel better about myself for at least trying to be the bigger person, but would most likely end up on a list of embarrassing Facebook encounters. However before I could decide which option I was most comfortable with I found myself faced with scenario 4. I had been deleted as a friend.
In the end I came to conclusion that it was time to declutter my Facebook by deleting acquaintances I never talked to and hadn’t seen in years. Rather than going by deleting people posting offensive things, whether it be racist, sexist or homophobic, I would rather resort to deleting people I have no real contact with, people I wouldn’t say hello to if I ran into them on the street. Because I like to believe that once you’ve cut out these people, those who remain are people you know hold the same values as you and respect you for who you are, and that in the end was my only real deal-breaker.