Random Facebook Friend: "ATTENTION EVERYONE. If you don't agree with me on [insert political, social, or religious issue here], then go ahead and UNFRIEND ME."
That's the short version, of course; it's usually accompanied by a ranty explanation of how said person can't take any more stupidity, plus a lot of incendiary name-calling, just for color.
Now, for a very few core issues, I can maaaaybe understand this kind of gauntlet-throwing. On the other hand, most of these posts I'm seeing are pretty broad, saying stuff like, "All bigots, UNFRIEND ME."
Of course these posts get all the likes and virtual back slaps in the comments, with lots of "Right on, dude!" and "YES THIS!" type congratulations - but I'm genuinely curious: If any of your Facebook friends are, in fact, bigots, do you really think they identify that way? Do they go around introducing themselves like, "Hi, I'm Jackie The Bigot"? (And if so, why don't you just unfriend them?)
The same goes for most of the common buzzwords I'm seeing so often: racist, homophobe, Communist, "backwards-thinking idiot," etc, etc. Even the people who you think ARE those things, dollars to donuts, don't agree with you on the label.
So what's the point?
Not to mention, what about the friends who may not agree with you, but who don't talk about it? I mean, anyone can understand the frustration with That Guy who posts non-stop political memes, but most of us aren't him. Most of us believe lots of stuff we don't shout from the rooftops. So should we unfriend each other over issues we've never even discussed together before?
More importantly, when did we become so intolerant of opposing viewpoints that we feel the need to sever all ties - with casual acquaintances OR our closest friends - over things like GMO crops and health care reform? When did agreement on ALL issues become a prerequisite for friendship?
The big things, sure. I mean, you can't be friends with someone who doesn't value you as a person. Or people who think dogs are better than cats. But you'd be surprised how many "big" issues you CAN disagree on, and still have an amazing relationship.
I come from a conservative religious background, and today I work - and love working - in the more liberal circles of the internet. Take the two most extremist people you know, one on each side, and that's my social sphere today. I'm friends with people who protest on both sides of major issues, and many of my dearest friends would vehemently disagree with each other on LOTS of stuff.
And you know what? It gives me balance.
The key is a willingness to focus on what you do have in common, and respect from both parties. (The geek community is fantastic for this, btw.) It also helps if you can step back from the Internet Outrage Machine and remember that the people you're railing against are still people. If you met them at a party, you might even like them a whole lot.
I'm not saying go out and befriend the people who are diametrically opposed to everything you stand for, but I AM saying that, sometimes? It couldn't hurt.
The same goes for keeping those friends who you just learned like dogs better than cats, or something equally heinous.
'Cuz who knows? Maybe that awful person who's trying to destroy the fabric of America with her liberal/conservative/dog-loving ways will turn out to be the best friend you ever had. Maybe she'll even change your mind about something, some day.
So why not let her stick around long enough to find out?
And hey, if you don't agree with me? FRIEND ME. 'Cuz we're still cool.