Like many Facebook users, I have defriended ‘friends.’ Enough was enough, and the ‘Unfriend’ option got selected. Sometimes, it was because I was sick and tired of seeing their posts in my newsfeed–for whatever reason, perhaps they were politically or personally offensive, or just too silly to put up with anymore. (Pompous, self-inflated, pretentious, bon mots and faux aphorisms are among the worst offences; they deserve the electronic guillotine like nothing else.) Sometimes, it was because I was finding that person particularly contentious in their dealings with me online–in their constant desire to reduce all conversation to a species of verbal sparring. And sometimes, because the offender had committed an exceedingly common Facebook sin: getting into edgy, hostile, arguments with friends of friends.
Let’s say you have a party. You invite some of your friends over. Many of the people you invite introduce themselves to each other. They enter into conversation, and sometimes, perhaps after a few drinks have been consumed, they might even engage in spirited discussion or argument. A few intemperate ones, not recognizing the bounds of propriety turn these encounters with almost-perfect strangers into slugging matches. You wish you hadn’t invited them to your party. They are loud, they have assumed too much familiarity with your other friends, they have disturbed the decorum of an otherwise friendly space.
Or consider a variation on the above theme. A friend of yours,overhearing a response another friend of yours made to you, loudly accosts him, and starts berating him. The two do not know each other; they have not been introduced. Your first friend is bemused and bewildered. You are vexed. Why doesn’t your second friend simply address himself to you alone, the person whom he knows and has previously established some kind of relationship with? Why is he picking fights with strangers–at your party?
This second kind of behavior is exceedingly common on Facebook. You post a status; your friends respond to you. But other friends respond to them. So far, so good. If they know each other. But if they don’t, then you find one friend subjected to harassment by another.
Pro-tip: this is rude. Really rude. If you want to comment on a friend’s Facebook page, by all means do so. After all, he has spoken up in a space open to you. But do not, unless you know the person, unless you are friends with them, enter into hostile, contentious arguments with friends of your friend. You are embarrassing your friend, being an ungracious guest. You are being an obnoxious presence, one begging to be expelled. There are many spaces for argument on the Internet; many spaces for discussion and disagreement. The exact template and form and content of the argument you are disagreeing with will be found elsewhere; that fact is mathematically certain. If you feel like refuting that argument, find an alternative venue for so doing. Your rhetorical and argumentative skills will find deployment; you will be reassured you are as smart as you think. You do not need to refute *this* person in *this* space.
And if you persist, do not be surprised to find yourself shitcanned.