Last Saturday was my 40th high school reunion and I once had every intention of going. I loved those old friends of mine and I hadn’t seem them since the 5th reunion, which — rather typical for our class — was held six years after we graduated. We had a commonality of life experiences. It was impossible to grow up in the ’60s and not be politically astute; how could we not be when there was every chance the president was going to send many of us off to Vietnam, if we didn’t incinerate in a nuclear blast first?
Then, years later, Facebook came along and every day was a reunion. I found that my old friends — in many cases — are now much different in every way than we were before. We had also gone off in our own political directions; some of us — some of them — to the far reaches of the spectrum.
It might’ve been — and probably was — a delightful evening. But I couldn’t risk the chance that I might fly halfway across the continent at considerable expense to undergo the talk radio- and cable TV-inspired conversations I loathe.
Increasingly, it seems, our relationships revolve around politics; one reason why I have a “no politics/no religion” rule among my aviations friends, most of whom I’ve lost after defriending them on Facebook. If you talk politics, you’re only going to lose friends.
If you’ve been in the same situation, there’s good news: It’s not just you. Politics is straining the social fabric.
MPR’s Public Insight Network has been collecting stories for a segment later this month on the program, “This American Life.” They’ve populated this map with those stories.
One of my favorites:
I was a late adopter of Facebook — I’ve only been on it for about a year and a half. What has been especially striking to me as a user is the way in which people’s political Facebook status updates reflect the kind of polarizing language I thought was reserved for cable news pundits and congressmen in the midst of a temper tantrum. …
After a particularly long week of angry Facebook posts depicting ludicrous caricatures of Republicans, I posted an (admittedly whiny) update bemoaning the lack of intelligent discourse and lack of attempts to “reach across the aisle.” Within seconds, I had a reply: “Romney bathes in baby’s blood.”
The Public Insight Network is assembling audio stories from people, some of them heartbreaking splits over politics. Tom Cox, for example, hasn’t spoken to his brother in three years.
In another month, the presidential campaign of 2016 begins. How do we disconnect this relationship between politics and our relationships?