I try not to unfriend people. Even my most toxic friends – the ones who can’t help but post how horrible the world is or how everything is going to kill you if you eat/are exposed/allow it to exist. I unfollow all the sites they share, but I don’t remove them, because they’re my friends. And I know those posts come from a passion to want to change things and do what’s right. For politics it’s much the same. If you post a lot about how people are welfare cheats or how we need to drug test for approval for welfare or how Ted Cruz is going to save the country, probably I unfollowed you and the sites you support a long time ago.
I appreciate diversity of thought and opinion, but in today’s world, that feed is a sort of social living room, and that sort of negativity has a very real effect on me. As a bipolar person, it doesn’t take a lot to make me sink, and sometimes that post was the one that did it. And so I excise it. But not the friendship.
So how did I make it happen this time? I know people have strong opinions about bathroom usage nowdays, but with so many friends and loved ones that identify as trans, I can’t just listen to someone spew about how they’re a danger. I was raped in a bathroom as a child, I know where the real danger lies. And so people using that fear of something real, something I’ve experienced, to attack people I love and care about really gets me… angry. Not just a little.
But it still hurt. Because the guy, a friend since college, asked if he was being a bigot. He asked me. And I told him. Because he was. I told him he was not thinking things through. I told him he was trying to find a cultural issue to use as a wedge between people, and that it was wrong. He told me we weren’t friends anymore if I called him a bigot again.
I knew what I was doing. But I was angry. I told him, essentially, that if he didn’t want me to call him a bigot, he should stop being one. It was a principled stand, I believe that. But I knew how he reacts under those sorts of pressure circumstances. I mean, I’ve known since college. Upwards of twenty years. He’s a conservative republican. I knew I was losing a friend.
So why do I care? I hear so often in the community people say we should just cut people like that out of our lives. But what if they’re parents? Brothers? Friends? I know… what kind of friends could they be with beliefs like that? But the answer is surprising sometimes. He was a good friend. At a time everyone I thought was my ally turned on me, it was him and the other republicans who rallied and said “No.” They were the ones who had my back when my community turned their backs on me. He was a good friend.
And now he’s not. It makes me sad.
Thinking about losing friends reminds me of the one time I actually unfriended someone. I got catfished. Yeah, it really happens. He was a good friend. Young and struggling and active in our fanfiction community. Trying to keep a romance alive and struggling with that. And then he “died.” And I mourned. I’d spent weeks helping keep him sane when he thought he’d never keep his hopes up. I’d helped him edit stories. I’d spoken to him almost every day for years.
And he never existed.
The person who was behind him is the only person I’ve actually unfriended myself. The incident was the inspiration for The Byte of Betrayal. So I’m going to plug one of my own stories, and note that it’ll be on sale at the Dreamspinner Press store for 30% off from June 6-8.
The Byte of Betrayal
Caleb McDonnell lives his life online. A thirty-year-old fast food worker, he spends his time talking in an Internet world where his job and living conditions can't dictate his friendships. He's found acceptance, friendship, and even romance. But when an online friend is revealed as a fake, Caleb loses all sense of trust. To stave off the emotional collapse of his betrayal, Caleb leaves his online life behind and retreats into the monotony of his job.
Nicodemus Rokos feels like his heart has been torn out. He knew Caleb would be hurt, but he'd hoped not to be shut out of his boyfriend's life. He can only hope Caleb still feels something when he shows up in person to reclaim what he's lost.