Dallas, TX –
I've been defriended twice on Facebook since joining last fall. Both times over Jesus - more or less.
The first defriending came as no surprise, except that it was my first. The first is always a shock and difficult to get over.
It came early in my Facebook career, involving an old friend from high school. We weren't great friends but hung out quite a bit, as band geeks tend to group together regardless whether they have much in common. He and my husband have known each other since the fourth grade.
I posted a shout out to Apple on my Facebook page after the company donated $100,000 to fight Proposition 8, California's vote to ban gay marriage. He sent back a video, which explained in fairly non-offensive language all the ills of gay marriage.
A few exchanges down the Facebook message road turns into his saying one can't be a Christian and be against Prop 8 and my responding by defending my Christian beliefs and stating that Jesus personally has nothing to say about homosexuality in the Bible. My husband, in a separate message, concurred. Our friend said he was peeling the Apple stickers off his car. I said I was putting extra Apple stickers on mine.
And then he was gone. Now, Facebook doesn't send you a message or anything when you get defriended. But it doesn't take Colombo to realize somebody's disappeared.
The second defriending came when another high school friend, we worked together in the produce section at Kroger, was having a perfectly innocuous conversation about how he couldn't wish for anything more since he and his family were happy, together, and healthy. Further discussion with another of his friends led to his going ahead and wishing for more, something about world peace and everyone being in love with Jesus.
Not ever one to leave well enough alone, I made a flip comment: "Except for the Muslims, Jews, and the like, that sounds great." To which he replied, "Yep."
But then he was gone. Really? Again?
I felt much more comfortable with this friend and messaged him to see what was up. Not in a creepy Facebook stalking kind of way, but just a friendly question about said defriending.
Turns out my friend (if I can still call him that) thought I took it too far. He didn't want to have to weigh his words so carefully and was just having a good laugh and dreaming big. If I was kidding, cool. If not, my comment was "totally unwarranted."
I was kidding, mostly. Although I don't have any longing for the entire world to accept Jesus.
Perhaps my Facebook etiquette could be tweaked. To me, it feels like real live conversation, where everyone throws in his or her two cents. In an actual conversation, a flip comment can be seen as well as heard and disappears with the next comment. On Facebook, the comment just hangs there in black type, waiting for interpretation and re-interpretation.
Which brings up an important point about Facebook. While many of my Facebook friends are genuinely dear friends, many are acquaintances - acquaintances I haven't seen in decades. A flip comment to my husband or one of my best friends is taken like I meant it. These people know me. Well. A flip comment to someone you had freshman algebra with or sometimes see at PTA meetings is a different animal. When all these friends converge on one page, that's sometimes difficult to remember.
My Kroger friend and I refriended after a bit of discussion and explanation. He didn't know how to take me and felt attacked when I intruded into a discussion with he and a Christian buddy. In person, I would've never intruded into such a discussion nor been flip about it. If I was at a dinner party with my conservative Christian childhood neighbor, my friend with benefits from a newspaper internship in the 80s, and my children's left-of-Air-America babysitter, I might keep the conversation fairly vanilla. On my computer screen, it doesn't feel awkward but maybe it should.
On a somewhat separate note, all of this Facebook friendship etiquette and defriending in the name of Jesus begs the bumper sticker question: Who would Jesus defriend? Well, I think he'd be fairly forgiving. But he might also keep his fingers on a shorter leash, which is what I plan to do.
Dawn McMullan is a freelance writer from Dallas.
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