Liberals More than Twice as Likely to De-friend You for Disagreeing with Them

March 15, 2012

I was talking with a couple of friends recently about how (in my experience) liberals and conservatives use Facebook differently.  The vast majority of political commentary that comes across my news feed is from my liberal friends, not conservatives, and much of it is snide or flippant.  Just for example, at the moment, my feed includes (on the one hand) one Christian suggesting that Obama is attacking Christianity, and (on the other hand)

  • a liberal relaying a “No, you can’t deny women their basic rights and pretend it’s about your ‘religious freedom'” picture,
  • a liberal posting a snide Tina Fey quote about Sarah Palin,
  • a “Very Liberal” posting a political cartoon apparently mocking immigration enforcement,
  • a “Localist Socialist Anarchist” saying (ironically and non-ironically at the same time) “I am a woo-woo mystic hippie and proud” (this goes on at some length),
  • a liberal criticizing (with vulgarity) newspapers for not printing some Doonesbury sequence about abortion, and
  • a liberal posting a Youtube video that comes with the description “An overlook at the Hegemonic society that utilizes the media as a tool to dictate gender expression” (no idea what it’s about, not going to find out),

just off the top of the stack.  It’s almost as if my conservative friends and I thought it would be poor manners to talk about politics a lot in front of everyone (especially to mock those who disagree with us); it’s almost as if, for some of my liberal friends, such considerations hadn’t even crossed their mind.

So I was interested to learn, via Gay Patriot and Hot Air, that the Pew Research Center has just done a study on some related questions:

One goal of the survey was to see if people are using [social-networking] sites in a way that suggests they live in social network “echo chambers” of like-minded friends.

It wasn’t even a close contest:

Liberals are the most likely to have taken each of these steps to block, unfriend, or hide. In all, 28% of liberals have blocked, unfriended, or hidden someone on SNS because of one of these reasons, compared with 16% of conservatives and 14% of moderates.

In other words, it appears to me (and others I’ve talked to) that liberals are more likely inconsiderately to talk about politics publicly on Facebook.  Then, perhaps ironically, Pew reports that liberals are also more likely to react badly to such behavior in others.  You probably shouldn’t take my word for the former—it’s anecdotal—but I think you’ll find at least the latter very interesting.

See also Thomas Sowell’s examination of whether liberalism has a tendency to cut itself off from feedback from reality.

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7 Responses to “Liberals More than Twice as Likely to De-friend You for Disagreeing with Them”

  1. Snoodickle Says:

    I’ve never been on Facebook, and I think anyone who opens a page on that site for nonbusiness purposes is a lunatic.


  2. This is interesting. Although I’m no longer on facebook, all the politics was one thing that really turned me off and cemented my decision to leave it.

    What was upsetting to me is how personal politics became– and how the forum of facebook escalated these debates into attacks. I had Conservative, Liberal, and Anarchist friends posting political content that was over-the-line on a regular basis. Many of these posts seemed to exude disdain for anyone who disagreed. These posts weren’t about starting a conversation, but declaring superiority.

    One thing I do miss about facebook is the constant stream of news and posts from perspectives I wouldn’t normally find on my own. I learned about some great sites and sources that way. I am happy to hear arguments from the other side, as long as they are presented respectfully.

    Lately I’ve been ambivalent about going back– but then I’d also have to witness all the inevitable emo/ranting posts that I certainly don’t miss at all!

    If I deleted someone related to politics, it wasn’t usually because of the beliefs they shared– but their tone. There’s a huge difference in sharing an article reflecting your own political viewpoints, and openly condemning anyone who might disagree with you. That happens on both sides of the party line, and everywhere in between.

  3. Eva Says:

    Gosh, I feel so ignored and unappreciated!


  4. As long as we’re trying to figure out whether the problem is “tone” or political content itself, I notice that the moderates do less de-friending even than the conservatives. Presumably they would be the ones whose “de-friending” would have to do with tone, because the content part is sortof neutralized? If they can be a control for the tone/content thing, that sure makes it look like liberals de-friend because of political content way, way more than conservatives do.

    In my experience in real life, too, it’s the liberals who stop being friends with conservatives, which seems in line with what this study found. And, just as Amee says, disdain for disagreement seems to be a real problem:

    “Civil” conversations may seem unpleasant to a liberal in a way they might not to a conservative. (Chillingworth has suggested before that liberals might be particularly inclined to moralize disagreement and assume bad motives of those who disagree.) For example, if I say I’m against illegal immigration because I’ve seen it ruin the lives of some immigrants, some liberal will stop talking to me because I’ve personally offended her because she knows some illegal immigrants and my opinions themselves are somehow offensive to her. (True story.) If the content of my opinion is offensive, there’s nothing to do. I’m at a loss. “Civility” there would mean not expressing my opinions to liberals at all, period. But then I don’t quite buy it when they tell me it’s only about tone, I guess.

    I have no reason to doubt what Amee says about herself or her experiences, but for my part, my experiences seem pretty in line with what the empirical study found. I totally agree: disdain for disagreement isn’t useful.

    I think the most fascinating thing the Pew study found was the number of liberals who will de-friend someone for disagreeing with what the liberal himself posted. It’s funny to me that folks will post divisive comments online, where everyone can read them, and then de-friend people who express disagreement. It ties together Chillingworth’s observation that liberals post more politics on facebook with the survey’s finding that they also shut down disagreement more often.

    It reminds me of the quiet, little comment of one of my (conservative) friends on the insulting political post of another of my (liberal) friends. He asked simply, “You do know you have conservative friends, right?” That about sums up my impressions of facebook and politics.


  5. […] also the entertainment media and the schools, and liberals are always happy to share or preach on Facebook etc.  Is it any surprise that, in this liberal sea in which we swim, liberals are so much worse […]

  6. Bret Weeks Says:

    Interesting, though I’ll note that in my experiences with facebook it’s the exact opposite, with conservative republican garbage being posted…I swear if I see one more picture of Reagan!

    I have deleted people for being overly political on both sides of the fence before, Since most of them ended up being republicans…yeah. Though now that facebook has an option to hide them from the feed I tend to do that. It’s not so much their opinions – they have just as much right to them as anyone – but it’s really very annoying to see the same posts constantly cluttering up and hiding more interesting things.

    I would imagine it would have to do with where you grew up though…I lived in Texas for most of my life.


  7. […] is not news (see “Liberals More than Twice as Likely to De-friend You for Disagreeing with Them”, from two and a half years ago), but it’s still interesting.  From the Pew Research Center […]


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