The Psychological Reason You Want to Unfriend People You Disagree With
Unlike any in event in living memory, this year’s presidential election has polarized and angered more than just those who are politically engaged, and that’s a huge problem.
One of the major places its effects can be felt on social media. People are literally un-friending and blocking each other on Facebook because of opposing views. And it’s not just friends, it’s also family members doing it to one another. We aren’t talking to the other side anymore, and there’s a philosophical explanation as to why.
I’m not going to lie, I did unfriend a few people who shared things I didn’t agree with, but mostly because what they said was hateful or racist. Disclaimer: There’s a huge difference between having opposing views and someone using hate speech.
However, if you are making the case for un-friending someone just because they are talking about things that you disagree with, you might be hurting yourself in the long run.
In fact, this philosophical concept that explains why you feel a need to unfriend people who disagree with you: dialectical dissonance.
This theory was developed by G.W.F. Hegel, a German philosopher, and it explains the anger you feel when confronted with ideas that are different than yours. Dialectical dissonance causes violence, and incites outrage.
This immediate response to reject other ideas contributes to the liberal or conservative echo chambers we live in. It feeds the idea that we can’t talk to one another because what’s the point in trying to convince someone of an idea that scares them into thinking that they have been wrong this entire time?
This theory also might explain why you feel the need to un-friend someone on Facebook who thinks differently than you. When confronted with ideas that are unfamiliar or different, our instinct it to reject them because, duh, it’s scary to think that… GASP! you might be wrong.
This theory matters now more than ever. It might be the explanation as to why nothing is getting done in Congress because of the partisan politics. This gridlock causes more polarization and more anger, and it’s basically a never-ending cycle.
Trump’s strategy to win this election wouldn’t have worked without dialectical dissonance. He played into it, and took advantage of those who felt some outrage whenever he brought up Hillary Clinton, or the emails, or anything that conservatives could use to fuel their anger.
It’s not just conservatives, though. Liberals are also guilty of saying things that incited outrage caused by DD, like when Hillary decided to call half of Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables” or whenever someone aggressively shares grotesque slaughterhouse videos in an effort to convert all their Facebook friends to veganism.
The link between DD and un-friending was strengthened during a study by Christopher Sibona in 2014 that looked at why people were un-friending each other. He says that you will most likely un-friend the people you went to high school with. But it’s not because your friendships have faded. It’s because your beliefs in politics and religion are stronger now than they were in high school.
“Your high school friends may not know your current political or religious beliefs and you may be quite vocal about them,” Sibona said. “And one thing about social media is that online disagreements escalate much more quickly.”
And everyone knows how easy it is to comment on someone’s post to start basically World War III. So as you age, and your political beliefs grow stronger, it becomes much easier to argue with others.
The way to avoid the problems cause by dialectical dissonance is conversation. Listening and not getting angry when someone brings up an idea you may not agree with is basically the first step.