WARNING: This post contains sarcasm, satire, blunt irony, a few digs, some rather feigned foot-stomping, and carefully nuanced witticism; it may be unsuitable for those of fragile emotional constitution.
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So I was unFriended by someone on Facebook a while back. Before pulling the plug on our short, but stormy, cyber friendship, they made sure I knew why I was being un-graced with their presence:
After reading your FB updates, I usually feel deeply sad. Your brand of Christianity is exactly the kind that has wounded me so profoundly. I really think you must have no idea how hurtful your words are and how hard people like myself have fought to escape the harsh, casual cruelty of your worldview.
The last time I was unFriended on FB (at least, that I know of) was for daring to publicly challenge another Christian author who believed Christians can / should become sinlessly perfect… in this life. Perhaps it was my “imperfections” that emboldened me to protest such a notion. The rest of the commenters seemed too busy fawning to call the author on it. Or maybe they too were already “perfect.” However, the subsequent unFriending by this author seemed to expose a gaping hole in their theory. It was like
I believe Christians should be sinless and will unFriend anyone who challenges me!
No wonder I have such a problem becoming sinless — I’m not unFriending enough folks.
So when I received the above message, I wasn’t entirely shocked. I consider myself a lover not a fighter. But in my world, those two are dance partners. Anyway. I wasn’t quite sure what the writer meant by “[my] brand of Christianity” and “the harsh, casual cruelty of [my] worldview.” Nevertheless, I apologized for any offense and agreed that we probably were of different stripes.
And accepted my exile.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have taken it so hard if, a few days later, this person hadn’t Tweeted something snide about another professed Christian group. So let me get this straight: Harsh, critical, snarky, hurtful words are wrong… unless they’re employed for a righteous cause???
Well, then, I feel a whole lot better.
What tore the scab off this thing was reading HuffPo’s Why We’re Unfollowing Bret Easton Ellis yesterday. Until that post, BEE was not on my cultural radar or Following list. It was Andrew Losowski, HuffPo Books editor’s indignation, that changed that.
After listing some of the stuff Ellis Tweets, much of which is snide, politically incorrect, bombastic, offensive, and clearly inflammatory, Losowski concludes:
These are charged statements that deserve exploration and discussion. But Easton Ellis doesn’t respond to people on his feed, nor does he build on any of these ideas elsewhere.
Of course that’s his right. It’s his Twitter feed. But it’s also anti-social behavior, and though following it does generate a certain morbid fascination, we’ve now grown a little tired of how he uses the platform (and we’re not the only ones). Among his one-way conversations, he throws out these lines, people get briefly upset, and we pick it up, thereby amplifying his most hurtful remarks. Well, not any more.
We say: go follow him on Twitter if you’re looking for his latest provocation, because we on the Books section of The Huffington Post aren’t going to cover his micro invectives any more.
I took his advice and Followed Bret Easton Ellis.
Really, there were two words that did it for me: “Hurtful remarks.” Have these become Trigger Words yet? Because I just, like, snapped.
Apparently, the internet is breeding a new type of person, one who gets hurt very, very easily. But as Nature is wont to do, that genetic swamp is also producing a more Enlightened Being, defender of the weak, the Homo Sapien of our digital Stone Age: The Hurt Police.
And I’ve been cited.
In the hopes of staving off further citations, here come the qualifiers. Being rude and crude and scandalous is not a good thing. Intentionally hurting people’s feelings and/or disregarding their feelings is wrong. Constructing a platform entirely upon controversy and provocation is kinda stupid. Just because you have a social network following is not a license to broadcast everything that’s on your mind with reckless abandon.
Having said that…
I don’t Follow people because they don’t hurt my feelings. And I don’t unFollow them if they do.
Of course if someone’s a blasphemous, blithering idiot, I’ll probably give them the boot. But it’s not because they hurt my feelings. It’s because they’re a waste of my time. For the record, some of my favorite blog watering holes are atheist sites. And, oh, Leftist sites. Even though I’m neither. Nothing like anti-Christian and liberal rants to get the old blood pumping. I like to follow people whom I disagree with, who get my goat, provoke, challenge me to think, and rankle me to no end.
Why else would I keep following Anne Rice?
Which is why I followed with interest the controversy surrounding Jared Wilson’s now infamous, now removed, post, “The Polluted Waters of 50 Shades of Grey, Etc.” Multiple firestorms erupted between feminists and defenders of biblical patriarchy, eventually cauterizing in the stand-off between these two blogger / authors. It was a fascinating affair!
I found myself somewhere in the middle of that argument — which is why I never publicly commented — and followed the ensuing posts and counter-posts with great interest. Until the debate spiraled into polarization, party lines, snipiness, and self-righteous indignation, eventually running aground when one of the parties urged their Followers to stop engaging the other and promised to do so themselves.
What upset me most about that debate was not that it turned terse, that tempers got heated, and rhetoric flew, but how it ended.
When all else fails, Unfriend them.
I loved the response of Sarah Pulliam Baily at Her.menuetics, the Christianity Today blog for women. In Sex! Outrage! The Internet! Doug Wilson, Rachel Held Evans, and The Gospel Coalition she summarized what she considered a better approach to boycotts and blog post removals and mass unFriending:
Shutting each other down or shutting each other up should never be the goal among Christians. If we are going to love one other, we need to challenge and sharpen one another with a spirit above the Internet rage, a spirit of mercy that assumes the best intentions of even those who offend or outrage us.
So I continue to Follow all of the parties in that debate. As I do the person who unFriended me in the aforementioned message. And, for the life of me, I can’t think of a single thing they’d say to make me call the Hurt Police.