The business of unfriending | Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo

‘FRIENDING’ was a term coined during the Facebook era, when it became possible to connect with people outside of your regular social network and have a seemingly more lasting relationship with them, even just by posting of photos and status updates.

I continue to use “friends” in quotation marks when referring to Facebook or other social media platforms because many of these people don’t actually fit my old-people definition of what friends are. These aren’t the people who will visit you when you’re sick, send you a care package when you feel depressed, appear at your dead parent’s wake to condole with you and the rest of your family, or give you the shirt off their backs when you are in need.

And as such, unlike others in this collective post-election mourning, I don’t really overthink if I should continue friendships with certain people who hold different or opposing political beliefs to mine. I really keep a tight network of real friends on most social networks; for one, I’ve actually met many of these people in real life. I only accept friend requests of people I personally like. I’m not a clout chaser who needs 5,000 people on their Facebook friends list.

Sure, I’ve unfriended a few people over politics, like this one classmate who seems to have not imbibed the values of our dear school’s patron saint, and only has hate in her heart for those who don’t love her idol president.

I’ve also unfriended people who really had nothing original, funny, or shared even a comment on my posts over the years that we’ve been on Facebook or Instagram. I especially find it taxing to remain “friends” with people who don’t even bother to greet me on my birthday (despite notifications going up on Facebook), or on special holidays like Christmas, New Year, or Easter, whether online or off the social networks.

On the other hand, I’ve maintained relationships with a teeny, tiny selection  of friends who are of a different political persuasion. Mostly, it’s because we’ve been buddies long before all this political divisiveness, hate, and mean-spirited discourses came into fashion. So we’ve had more personal stories, engaging anecdotes and hilarious memories in common than our respective political beliefs. And, basically, we just don’t hassle each other over our candidates.

Which is how I think people should approach this stage of post-electoral “unfriending”. Allow yourselves to grieve over the loss of your candidate/s, but you can’t allow yourselves to become bitter as well. If you agonize over possibly losing one friend over your political differences, then take a breath, put off the unfriending for another day. Close your Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms for the sake of your mental health. Anger and frustration, or devastation over this election’s loss, can cloud one’s judgement about one’s relationship with others. So take a breath.

From experience, true and trusted friends will be able to understand our feelings of mourning. Even if they voted for our candidate’s rival and indeed won, they wouldn’t rub it in our faces. They’ll wait for the time when we’ve fully recovered and can take jokes again.

However, if you feel these friends have somehow crossed the line and needlessly stabbed you with their unkind words or patronizing comments, then it’s probably time to say goodbye. There was never real friendship there, so it won’t really be a loss. These aren’t the people who will come to your aid when you are absolutely in need.

Unfortunately, relatives are more difficult to get rid of. Some of the accounts on Twitter recently have to do with people deciding to deny financial assistance to family members because the latter voted for another candidate. Personally, I’ve always believed when one helps, it should be out of the goodness of one’s heart, without expecting anything in return. But I get it. The cut is deep and being called on to cough up funds for some reason or the other is just too soon for some. So denying financial aid, especially for unnecessary expenses – like for instance, a niece’s lakwatcha or gimmick – is frankly the benefactor’s right.

Tuition fee expenses, fine. Medicines for parents, okay. But if you’re getting funding requests for anything and everything just because you’re the breadwinner in the family, or are working abroad (and they think you don’t have expenses of your own), then perhaps it’s time to wean your relatives off the gravy train. And it goes without saying that it doesn’t have to be over political issues.

I’ve seen one too many OFW friends who have cried and agonized about the way their families use them like a piggy bank not just for the regular sustento, but to pay for every close relative’s luho. In one friend’s case, her parents decided to quit their jobs, and the siblings didn’t look for work anymore, as they depended on her for all their financial needs.

So when you start going on your unfriending spree, make sure you have a clear mind and heart, and know exactly why you are doing so. If it’s just because you don’t share the same political beliefs with some friend, then maybe you should assess if there’s anything worthwhile in the relationship that can be saved. We live in a democracy and everyone has a right to his or her own political leanings. Real, close friendships should have enough space to accommodate these kinds of differences.

Image credits: Charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

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