The leaders we elect, the friends we choose
Manila—How do you maintain your peace at a time when people slug it out with their warring political views?
In the past days, I haven’t seen the act of unfriending and being unfriended on social media platforms, especially on Facebook, with more speed and frequency than any other time that I’ve been interacting with friends and posting on it.
With the recent elections in the Philippines polarizing our society and dividing families and friends, it has come to a point where people had to choose from among those who share their political beliefs and those who think their views are better. I believe that having friends with different political opinions is great for as long as there’s mutual respect. But this year’s elections introduced a new norm.
This emerged when the son and namesake of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos defeated his closest opponent, outgoing Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo.
There were only two sides of politics that accompanied these two leading presidential contenders, and the unfriending process is now part of the political divide. As Marcos stood for corruption and historical revisionism, his supporters and apologists are the ones getting unfriended.
Some of my friends who have cut down their list of friends say it’s one thing to have different views but it’s another to spread false or misleading information. It’s also not right to continue being friends with someone who shares verses from the Bible, yet supports a candidate who believes that 20 years of martial law in the Philippines was a golden age.
Severing ties and Facebook unfriending first became common in 2016 when then-presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign paid social media influencers to attack his detractors and create fake media accounts to sing praises for him.
Politics has become more divisive than ever, so much so that families avoid political discussions during meals and friends skip it in group chats.
In our world where people can get away with fake information, misleading claims or profanities, relationships and connections that took time to build have to end.
Many relationships are not built overnight. There are those that are worth saving because they are important. There are also connections that we value so much that we can’t afford to lose them.
Politics can be an appealing subject but mental health and well-being are equally important. So while unfriending and cutting ties have become the new norm, protecting one’s peace from a toxic environment has also become its cohort.
While I’m not as politically engaged as some of my friends, I also believe in the crucial function of a judgment call when deciding which bridges to burn or, in this instance, what part of me I should protect and what to give up.
When a social media friend who is not willing to look at the truth and is not even convinced to at least try, I told myself it was time to cut it. I blocked and unfriended. I chose peace.
Diana G. Mendoza is a longtime journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org