Today, a toxic, now ex-friend, pushed me into writing my first blog in ages. The past two years have been consumed with moving and adapting to living as an expat in the Middle East, being a stay at home mom, making up for my pre-expat lack of traveling and writing when I get a chance. (This is also why I haven’t published a book in a while. Don’t worry – I am writing, albeit at my own pace.) I nearly didn’t write this blog. Then I realized how many people deal with toxic social network relationships and how many don’t speak up. So, here goes…
We all have that friend. Whether it is someone you’ve met on social networking or someone you’ve worked with – the kind that pretends to be a liberal philosopher but who is actually sanctimonious and judgmental.
I got into a debate turned nasty with such a friend this morning and try as I might to diffuse the situation, he just kept on coming back with veiled insults and cleverly worded judgments. I attempted to reason with him by acknowledging his point of view and offering different ways of seeing mine. In the end, nothing mattered. Not only would he doggedly stand his point of view (which I’m actually okay with because ‘agreeing to disagree’ can be a powerful act), he would insult me in every single comment he made. He would, for example, admit that he was being judgmental and follow it with a ‘but’ or another statement with snarky comments – a verbal slap. That’s when I thought that a direct approach would possibly work better than a diplomatic one. No, that was like pouring oil on a fire. It blew up. In the end, he was openly insulting and purposefully hurtful whilst saying, “I respect you, but…” or “With all due respect…”
Why do people do that? Do they think we’re stupid? When people say that we all KNOW they’re going to follow it with something negative. I mean, really!
I’ve seen a few friends have such experiences too. Before social networking they would have been referred to as ‘email wars’. Now, it is cyber stupidity. Every Tom, Dick and Jane think they have an opinion and that their opinion should, in fact, be everyone else’s. I get it. Believe me. I too have strong opinions. Push a button or get me onto a topic I’m passionate about and I can debate for days. There is, however, a difference between debate and personal attack. If someone is really going to upset you, you have a right to ignore them, unfollow them or unfriend them. There is actually no need to be mean.
In the end, I had actually had enough of this guy today.
That’s when I came across a saying, “Your Opinion is Not My Reality”. The fates threw that one into my lap. Of that, I’m sure. I had to ask myself whether my life would be better with or without him in it. The answer was that the only impact he had made on my life thus far had been a negative one on social media.
My lesson learnt for today – Cut Toxic Friends Out. Liberate yourself with the unfriend button. (And if you’re a writer, write them into a book and transform them. 😉 )