This presidential election year is bringing out a lot of reactions from, well, everyone – everything from support and opposition of “Obamacare” to the war and state’s rights. And many of these opinions are being voiced online 24 hours a day.
But for LGBT members of sites like Facebook, there’s often a conundrum when it comes to politics and online “friendships” – the stuff of former school ties, co-workers and even family. And while there’s certainly dissent among many in the LGBT community about these issues, as these highly politicized debates rage online about marriage equality and other LGBT rights, the social media experience can become really, really complicated.
For the most part, I pride myself on respecting other peoples’ opinions – and I’m regularly tested when my more conservative friends spend their Facebook time touting the merits of someone like Mitt Romney, a guy who has already said he would ban same-sex marriage in this country, reverse the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and who favors DOMA, which makes it impossible for LGBT Americans (and many gay moms and dads) to have access to many of the basic rights afforded to heterosexual couples and families. This can be especially difficult when old friends, relatives or professional acquaintances vigorously support politicians (hello, Rick Santorum) who just as vigorously back anti-gay laws and other initiatives.
For many of us, the debates aren’t theoretical. They are personal. And by “liking” statements and people that oppose LGBT rights – however directly or indirectly – many of us may interpret it as a personal attack. Because isn’t it?
Example: How many of you would be “friends” with someone in a white supremacist group? Or someone who believes in repealing women’s right to vote?
That’s often how LGBT folks feel when they see their own friendship circles endorse hateful messages and messengers on a daily basis. It gets especially tense in an election year when the issues are making the round on the 24-hour news.
When it comes down to it, there’s nothing someone can say to convince me that denying LGBT rights isn’t holding our society back. And thankfully, I have many straight and gay friends who agree.
I also defend the freedom of religion, but I’m taken aback when someone uses faith to justify hate and discrimination. It happens. A lot. Just this week I read someone’s post defending Kirk Cameron for coming out against LGBT rights and working with NOM. I think we can all agree he has the right to spout as much hate as he wants (damn you, Kirk, for ruining every last rerun of Growing Pains!) but people also have the right to defriend someone who champions him.
I’m not suggesting it’s smart to disengage from spirited debate, however. In fact, I often think discussing opposing viewpoints empowers one’s own argument. But when not-so-terse status updates are made that bully or spout homophobia, that can be a game changer for many of us.
It’s a matter of figuring out who to allow into one’s online world – and who to keep out. Just today, out actor and singer Jason Dottley had an interesting observation on Facebook: “This election is really going to challenge my relationships with a lot of people.”
Still others have posted messages that have said quite bluntly that if you oppose marriage equality or you support candidates who oppose equal rights, then let the “unfriending” begin. If in the 60s the same methods of weeding out hate-mongers were at our fingertips – and on our iPhones – how many of us would have been chummy with, say, a segregationist?
It’s one thing to know thy enemies, it’s another to play nice with them.
And that begs the question: Have you ever – or would you ever – delete someone because they have A.) supported anti-gay politicians, B.) made a homophobic statement or C.) bullied someone for being gay or transgender?