As an American Jew, I should, statistically speaking, be politically liberal. But I am not. And I can report that it’s an isolating and lonely social existence over here on the right. I recently was stupefied at meeting someone from my peer group who saw things in the same way.
Bonding over our commonality, this living breathing unicorn asked me, “Are you in the closet?” to which I answered with a resounding, “Yes, yes I am.” She knew, as I did, that posting what I truly believed on social media or commenting on other posts from a conservative point of view was not only social suicide but potentially career-ending and family-ties-rendering.
That is, our speech was not merely chilled but had achieved a frozen state. She told me that after the 2016 election she had started a secret Facebook group for closet conservatives. It got me to thinking — what do the more liberal among us call their secret Facebook group? Then it came to me — they just call it Facebook. And on Facebook, many of my liberal friends blast away without cause or concern that they are maligning unfairly people who they claim to love and respect. I have lost count as to how many real friends have posted “If you don’t agree with my political views, unfriend me.” Really? How tolerant of you. We’ve been friends for years, really? Your child played at my house countless times, really?
For me, social media has become a Rorschach test of sorts — nasty and ugly posts correlate with a lack of self-awareness and humility. To keep peace in my communal house, instead of unfriending people when their posts contain too much bile and invective I merely hide them from my feed. This issue doesn’t exist with friends who share a similar world view as mine because very few of them are brave enough to post anything political. The fate of those who do unfolds in one of two ways. In the first scenario, the author of the post is leapt upon and ripped apart by the “all are welcome here” mob. In the second scenario, the post sits unliked and un-commented upon like a leper that no one dare approach. Neither are particularly attractive options so the rest of our subgroup cautiously sticks to vacation and graduation pics with maybe an occasional link to a politically neutral fundraiser.
Between the onset of debate season and the diagnosis of President Trump with COVID-19, I’ve been forced to jump the social media ship because it had become so corrosive to my soul. The negativity, the divisiveness, the partisanship — it has fatigued me and I feel the need to speak “my truth” — sarcasm fully intended. Here is a plea to those left-of-center friends who like to rage regularly — the next time you want to vent your spleen on social media, please re-think this plan. Perhaps find your endorphin release through a brisk walk instead of likes and comments from the echo chamber. I’m speaking on behalf of your life-long friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors who don’t necessarily have the same political outlook. We’re tired of being called names. The path to civility starts with your fingers and thumbs. We can do this.