How Many People Did You Unfriend Today?

[Popcorn]

There are reports that apparently Twitter is testing a new “feature” to recommend people to unfollow. It’s bad enough, in my opinion, that Twitter makes recommendations about who to follow but now they want to expand that to who to unfollow? I can make my own choices, thankyouverymuch.

You can pick your own friends too, right? Do you need other people making those decisions for you?

Several years ago, I was a member of a small online group of friends. A couple members of the group had met in person but for most of us the only interactions we had had had been completely online. (Yes, three hads in a row but grammatically correct, I believe.) Most, if not all, of us had met on a particular discussion forum on the Internet. We got to know each other through our interaction in that forum because we appeared to share similar ideas and values. We later created a private group for private conversations.

Participation in the group was by invitation only. New people were only added based on the recommendation of an existing member or members. This was to try to keep out any undesirable characters.

Still, though, we ended up with a couple members who were, shall we say, something less than honest with us. One person in the group was apparently only in the group to try to sell us stuff.

Mind you, there is not necessarily anything wrong with offering stuff to your friends. If there’s something you need, you’d probably rather buy from a friend anyway. But, if you’re pretending to be someone’s friend in order to sell stuff to them, that’s an issue.

That is, it’s not the selling part that’s a problem. It’s the deception part of the equation.

It’s one thing to be friendly and professional and another to pretend to be a friend in order to try to exploit someone’s feelings in exchange for cash.

Even more so if what you’re selling is of dubious quality, you know?

And even more so if what you’ve been telling people about your life is largely a lie. There’s a difference between maintaining your privacy and keeping some secrets secret and making things to be something that’s not true. Not telling people your ex-mother-in-law still lives in a guest house out back out of concern people might not understand is one thing. Sharing a photo of yourself standing next to what you’re trying to pass off as your quarter million dollar yacht when you don’t even own a rowboat is another.

There are things people omit or maybe even lie about themselves in order to protect themselves. People might not want to reveal their specific religion lest they be mocked or insulted. They might not want to reveal their ethnicity, economic situation, living arrangements and other details, not because they want to deceive people but because they don’t want to be rejected or insulted or laughed at. These days, lots of people don’t want to share their political affiliations out of fear of being ostracized.

Some so-called social sites encourage users to share, share, share everything about their lives: thoughts, affiliations, opinions, photos, videos, etc. Share! Share! Share! Share it all, baby! But then if they don’t agree with what you’ve shared, they’ll punish you with temporary or even permanent bans.

Share the wrong idea and it won’t be that people will disagree with you, but you might get kicked out because your opinion didn’t conform. So some people are becoming more reluctant to share.

Given that, those kinds of little lies or omissions can be understandable. Sad, but understandable. People aren’t always nice to other people who may be or think differently and things seem to be getting worse.

In years past, a typo might generate some ridicule, especially if you’re a writer or editor. These days, a typo or misspoken word could be taken as an insult or something worse. And, too often, angry online mobs get fired up and try to get people fired from their jobs or boycott their businesses or get them banned from sites because they’ve imagined some insult or they didn’t like this or that.

Sometimes, those angry mobs end up targeting the completely wrong person. Someone with a similar appearance or similar name takes the heat instead of their intended target.

Sometimes those angry mobs argue that that’s okay, because the person was close enough and probably deserved it anyway.

But, it’s not okay, especially not with a completely innocent person whose only “crime” was looking like or sharing the name as the alleged “bad” person.

Quite honestly, it is really, really getting out of hand.

It’s one thing to drop a friend that turns out was never really a friend after all but just someone that saw you as a potential source of money. That lied, lied and lied, not to protect their privacy, not to protect themselves from unwarranted abuse, but to try to exploit your feelings to squeeze money out of you.

It’s another to drop a friend because you disagree about something.

How many friendships ended over disagreements over elections? I mean, come on. You are probably never going to find someone who is going to agree with you on everything. But you agree to disagree and move on with your life. If you’re dropping friends because some columnist or some politician said, hey, you shouldn’t have friends who don’t vote like you, what the heck? Why are you letting other people–people you don’t even know–make decisions about who your friends are? Why do you want politicians picking your friends for you?

Politicians will come and go, but a friend should be a friend, well, you know, forever.

And, if you are letting other people pick your friends, are you really being the best friend you can be?

But, but, it’s complicated… people may say.

No, it’s not. Not really.

There are complex problems in the world but a lot of complex problems can be fixed, or at least start to be fixed, with simple solutions.

We should try being nice to other people. That’s simple, right? Just try to be nice to other people, regardless of their religion, race, gender, politics, etc. Try to be nice. Try to treat others well. That’s not complex at all.

Just try to be nicer.

The sad thing is that some people are going to be offended by that advice. After all, in this day and age, you must not only conform to the general consensus on whatever but you also cannot be kind to people that don’t also conform. It’s really very sad. It feels like an upside-down world sometimes.

I worry about even posting this. And that’s sad too that we’ve come to this.

Regardless, we should all try to be nicer. We should try to not assume the worst of other people. If we assume the worst of other people, they will probably assume the worst of us, and that won’t end well. Not at all.

So, try to be nicer.

Being human, we all fail sometimes. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t or can’t keep trying.

Keep trying to be better people.

Keep trying to be more honest.

Keep trying to be nicer.

You cannot completely fail if you keep trying.

It’s only when you give up that you really fail.

It seems like we’ve gotten so far away from where we started. I remember first getting online years ago. I met a guy from the UK. I don’t know whatever happened to him. But that was so cool to talk (or type with) someone half a world away. You could talk with people from other cities, other states, other countries and see that we’re not so different. We could get firsthand accounts of what life was like in other places–viewpoints that weren’t filtered or sanitized by government censors or anyone else.

But, it wasn’t just that. It was the excitement of meeting new people. People you would otherwise have never been able to meet. It may not have been face to face, but you were able to share words and faster than you could if you had a pen pal. The Internet made the world more accessible.

And it was fun.

What the heck happened? Was it when politicians took notice and started using the Internet to manipulate people? Was it something else? I don’t know for sure. But it sure has changed.

Maybe we changed?

But maybe we can change it back.

Can we make the Internet fun again?

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