Ben Boychuk

Wishing a Merry Christmas to lost friends, real and virtual

Lexington Herald-Leader

Christmas is the time to say, “I love you.” Unless, of course, you’ve been unfriended and blocked on Facebook. Then you’re probably better off sending a card. But who has that kind of time? Postage is getting to be so expensive. And the crowds at the Post Office … ugh.

Nuance is dead. Manners are kaput. But it’s Christmas and the wait is over.

Or almost over. Every year, my father gives me a nice bottle of brandy on Christmas Day. But we don’t get together until closer to dinner time, so…

Look, cut me some slack. It’s been a tough year. Tougher than most. You can’t blame a guy for wanting a drink. As it happens, I’m ending 2016 with fewer friends than when I started. Not just Facebook friends, either, but the real-life kind. Over politics, of all things!

It’s a strange feeling, losing a friend over politics – a bit like losing a tooth. Remember the surprise you felt as a kid when a loose tooth finally popped out? Like that.

One unfriending that spilled into real life had to do with what I took to be a minor dispute over Obama and the Islamic State. That was the proximate cause, anyway. I suspect that particular tooth had been loosening for a while.

Still, he was a hail fellow well met – a fun conversationalist, well-read and a bit eccentric, which is almost always a plus. So at first I thought it was an accident when I suddenly couldn’t see his Facebook posts anymore. But the unanswered emails confirmed it was no accident.

One time is a tragedy. Twice is troubling. But three times, as any journalist will tell you, makes a trend. I was down about a dozen friends – and that was prior to the election.

The weeks following the election haven’t been so bad. Turns out, pollsters have taken an interest in all of this. According to Public Religion Research Institute, 13 percent of people surveyed just after Thanksgiving said they “blocked, unfriended or stopped following someone on social media” because of a disagreeable political post.

Partisan affiliation makes a difference – alas. Democrats were more likely than Republicans to cut people out of their social media circles in the painful days and weeks after Nov. 8, the PRRI poll found.

It shouldn’t be this way. One of the greatest cultural calamities of our time has been the triumph of “the personal is political.” That old ’60s rallying cry has ruined friendships, partnerships, marriages and careers.

Just after the election, some business owners – people who presumably want make a profit – declared they would refuse Trump voters as clients. Freedom of association and all that, but good grief! That’s just madness.

I regret that mere differences of opinion caused so much angst, anxiety and division this year. So to Mike, Doris, Mary, Katie, Joe, Josh, Alex and other friends real and virtual who fell away in the great Trump Shakeout of 2016, I’d simply like to say: Merry Christmas and no hard feelings.

Jack Ohman is still a pal, though. And he’s got a Pulitzer Prize. So that’s really something. On Christmas, you count your blessings where you find them.

Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness (www.amgreatness.com). Contact him at ben@amgreatness.com.

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