As I write this posting, I have 324 friends on Facebook. But, considering it's an election year, and I tend to be quite open with my strong opinions on things political, the folks over at the Pew Internet Project would like to warn me that I can expect to have only 262 Facebook friends by November 7.
That's because 9% of users of social networking sites "have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone because they posted something about politics or issues that the user disagreed with or found offensive," and another 10% of those on Twitter and Facebook, "have blocked, unfriended or hidden someone because they post too frequently on politics."
I don't believe I would ever fall into the second group; de-friending just because the person likes to talk about politics. I would also never de-friend simply because I disagree with the person's politics. If that were true, I'd have long ago dumped several of my Facebook circle who post daily reminders of why they're voting for Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul. (Thankfully, I don't have any Rick Santorum voters in my circles. Or, maybe I did, but they already dumped my liberal ass? More likely, they're just too embarrassed to admit who they're voting for in public.)
Actually, I quite like seeing posts on my newsfeed from all over the political spectrum. I enjoy reading things from different points of view, even when I find them dangerously stupid. Of course, I try to be polite in my commenting, and not just come right out and tell them they're being stupid. And I'm usually successful at that.
And then there have been times when I'm afraid I've gone too far in my commenting, and been surprised when the person was still on my friends list the next morning. I'd like to take this moment here to thank them for that (you know who you are).
But the "found offensive" thing... I'd like to say that I'm not easily offended, and that I have a high tolerance for questionable humor. But there are some areas where I have to draw the line.
If I find your ideas politically offensive (see example) I will argue with you, but I will not be the one to click the "unfriend" button. I will also remain your friend, no matter how pious, self-righteous, and pig-headed you are in declaring your beliefs to be morally, ethically, or intellectually superior to mine (I've done a bit of grandstanding myself, this post included).
But, if you resort to overt racism or sexism or other hate speech to try and make your point, where you have no legitimate point to begin with, I will remove you from my view. That's it. You've been warned.
Now, the Pew study has a bright side too. Although I may lose up to 19% of my friends for either being too political (10%), or just not the right type of political (9%), they also point out that 16% of users have "followed or friended someone because that person shared the user’s political views."
So, my net loss may only be 3%, dropping me from 324 to 314. But it will be a much more civilized and intelligent 314. I'm looking forward to that.