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Can Americans “Unfriend” Electoral Politics?

Can Americans “Unfriend” Electoral Politics?

Consider our hearts warmed.

I remember my first unfriending-by-way-of-politics.

I was 25; I’d made it all the way to my second year of law school without alienating a single person in the digital space—give me a medal. I had posted something negative about nuclear proliferation in Iran, drawing the ire of one of my best friends who also happened to be 100% Persian. Over the course of three or four heated comments, it was friendship over, both online and in the real world.

7 years of friendship, down the drain in an off-cycle. It deserved better.

I like to think I’ve grown out of the kinds of superficial political arguments that end relationships, but there’s something about an election cycle that brings out the worst in all of us. Semi-anonymity is a truth serum, and sites like Facebook and Twitter are handing it out for free.

Does our addiction to social media mean that our relationships will forever wallow in an extra layer of tension? Probably; and now there’s a new app called Who Deleted Me that will show you just how big of an impact your online posts are having on your friends, family and colleagues.

Buzzfeed spotted it:

Aptly named Who Deleted Me, the program is available as an app for iOS and Android or as a browser extension for Google Chrome.

Just like the Twitter app Who Unfollowed Me, the program tells you whether a friend has unfollowed you or just deactivated their account.
The apps launched a few weeks ago, but the extension has been around in some form since 2009.

Who Deleted Me only starts tallying your friend totals once you’ve downloaded it, so you can’t get a read on past friendships lost — only the platonic breakups that happened after signing up.

And as an extra stalking bonus, you can also see the last time your friends logged on to the social network.

Behold, our collective downfall:

who deleted me screenshots

I can’t say that I’ll ever touch this app; I’m confident in my ability to control myself online. I’m also confident that I hold certain viewpoints about certain candidates on both sides of the aisle that will earn me more than one passive aggressive unfriending on one or more social media platforms.

It is what it is; you’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not knowing who does and does not accept your worldview is worth the stress or monitoring your friend count.

Our digital space is flooded with politics; the internet is a valuable medium for candidates looking to distinguish themselves, so don’t expect to see the parade of elephants and donkeys march off into the sunset anytime soon. It’s still fairly early in the 2016 cycle, and already I’m seeing not just politicians but activists and flacks looking to make a name for their cause by getting as bombastic and heated as possible.

Productive? Depends on what your goal is. But seeing as how we have to live in this online world that we’ve created, and not just work in it, we may want to give the idea of apps like this a second look before we launch those charged comments into the atmosphere and wait with baited breath for that first outraged reply.


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FrankNatoli | July 8, 2015 at 12:05 pm

There are people, friends, relatives, who agree with you, the “preaching to the choir” group. And there are people, friends, relatives, who disagree with you, and at best nothing you say will change anything, at worst [see article above] you receive the Stalinist erasure treatment. But what does “agree” mean? I’m tempted to say “come to the same conclusions”, but that implies facts, rational analysis, reasoning, and I suspect Miller’s “100% Persian” former pal employed none of the above. So “agree” is really “just happens to be the same, the overwhelmingly likely explanation being emotional predisposition”. Can’t reason with someone like that.

    platypus in reply to FrankNatoli. | July 8, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    Exactly. But I would state it more simply – What you thought you had (friendship) did not really exist. It was a mere impersonation of a friendship.

    Another way to put it is – If one disagreement on world politics can end a friendship, the friendship wasn’t worth very much in the first place.

    Suck it up and move on, lest your disappointments become a tar pit for you. That’s my motto.

In the late 80’s, I joined FidoNet and had my own dial-up BBS, where I made use of a support group for men using an anonymous handle. It was there I received my first death threat from a woman who triggered in response to one of my posts. I migrated to AOL in ’95 and met my wife through a pen-pal type service. Since we lived 2000 miles apart, we started using a 1st gen web phone which $aved us a fortune over metered phone calls. Logged into the call server and where we waited to connect with each other, by username with a ‘private’ flag showing, there was always a steady barrage of other users trying to connect with us to talk or test their setup, until we finally connected with each other and engaged the ‘hidden’ feature. We moved to dial-up internet and at some point I made artist pages on and where I began to see nasty anonymous comments and eventually deleted the pages. The kids, now grown and gone convinced me to try for the ‘great’ communication tool that it was, for staying in touch with them. Quickly I discovered that I couldn’t even post an “I love you” to my kids without my ex and her viper’s brood of a family circling like dogs. When I realized that my “block” list was longer than my “friends” list, I blew that account away as well.

I didn’t see this present misery of online hostility coming, but looking back on 30 years of online experience, I should have. Save for meeting my wife on AOL, my online experience has been a disappointment in terms of relationship. The dysfunction and venom seen in anonymous posting certainly seems to have carried over into real, face to face relationship.

I liked people a whole lot better before all this online and connected hype landed like a #turdinthepunchbowl

Perhaps we should have called it “Anti-Social Networking”?

Amy said “But seeing as how we have to live in this online world that we’ve created, and not just work in it…”
No. You don’t have to live in it, it is not required for communication. Joining all that social media indicates you are willing to allow all the blather to influence your original thought. Gather the world news, as accurate as possible, and expound on it. Don’t mimmic.

MrE said “Perhaps we should have called it “Anti-Social Networking”?”
Exactly. The current social networking does more harm than good.

Henry Hawkins | July 8, 2015 at 2:01 pm

I use Facebook solely for connection with far-flung family and friends and we all have a tacit understanding that we don’t do politics on Facebook, precisely because it can be polarizing and a certain pathway to eventual ugly contention.

I don’t do Twitter, Instagram, etc. Tried them all, no thanks.

The only place I talk politics online is in the comment sections of blogs like this. That is the purpose of most political blog comment sections, of course.

I’ve been unfriended once, by the divorced spouse of a blood relative who unfriended all of us at once.

If someone is experiencing recurrent difficulties with others online, the culprit is not those others, nor the medium. The culprit is in the mirror.

    platypus in reply to Henry Hawkins. | July 8, 2015 at 2:38 pm

    Henry, I find my most challenging choice in my life today is deciding whether you or rags are the best commenter on this site. Most of the time I treat it like a tie.

      platypus in reply to platypus. | July 8, 2015 at 2:40 pm

      I am so embarrassed at making such an elementary grammar mistake.

        Henry Hawkins in reply to platypus. | July 8, 2015 at 2:52 pm

        “I am so embarrassed at making such an elementary grammar mistake.”

        And now I’m embarrassed because I can’t find it.

      Henry Hawkins in reply to platypus. | July 8, 2015 at 2:51 pm

      When you equate Rags and I, you’ve insulted at least one of us. (lol)

      No, seriously, and sincerely, I very much appreciate what you’ve said. Thanks.

      Ragspierre in reply to platypus. | July 8, 2015 at 4:03 pm

      I’ve missed Hawkins, too. Glad he made it back from the land of the heathen!

        Henry Hawkins in reply to Ragspierre. | July 8, 2015 at 4:26 pm

        Thanks! We did the Canadian fly-in fishing trip. Picked up son and his best buddy in Royal Oak MI, flew to Upper Peninsula, then to Atikwa Lake in Ontario, NW of Lake Superior. Pike, muskie, and lake trout. Awesome place. No arrests.

        Stayed at a ‘lodge’ that hilariously overstated the features of their cabins. Running water! Yes, if you mean running your ass down to the lake with a bucket and running back before a bear eats you.

        Fisherman’s/Hunter’s Credo: If you have complaints about your rented cabin, you aren’t fishing or hunting enough.

AnimusFuriae | July 8, 2015 at 2:42 pm

“I like to think I’ve grown out of the kinds of superficial political arguments that end relationships”

The relationship is what was superficial, if it could end over something so trivial. I’ve been “unfriended” many times for my beliefs. I consider it an excellent indication that I’ve been wasting my time on “friends” who weren’t.

I see several comments here, and often hear conservative friends echo the same sentiment… it’s not worth alienating people so don’t voice political opinions. Just stay quiet if you don’t agree, etc.

You know what? That attitude has helped lead us, as a society, to the place where we are now. Progressives control the media, the entertainment industry, education, government bureaucracies, social media, etc. Entire generations of your youth are now being brainwashed 24 X 7.

If we don’t speak truth to our misguided friends who will? If 95% of us bite our tongues for fear of losing a friend, then the other 5% can be shouted down more easily by the progressive mob. Then what? How will the truth be heard then?