While I try to keep on friendly terms with those with whom I often disagree and enjoy both online and in-person political discussions, my experience has been some lefties are unable to do so without becoming continually trolly or resorting to personal attacks. For me, such bad faith can be grounds for dismissal. More often, though, I have been on the receiving end and have experienced enough of it to be able to categorize the experiences into different styles that say something about the personality type of the lefty doing the unfriending. Nowadays this most often takes place online on social media.
The Distancer: This is probably the most common form of unfriending. The person who can’t handle your different viewpoints just reduces interaction with you, maybe stops inviting you to events or becomes unresponsive to your attempts to initiate in-person or online interaction. It might take a while for you to realize the distancer has unfriended you, as it may not look much like any other form of two people drifting apart over time.
The Ghoster: This type acts stealthily and without warning. Usually quite suddenly, the ghoster will end all contact and block you on social media, from email, and their phone. Ghosting involves a definitive decision that you are now an unperson because of something you said or wrote. It may take some time before you realize you’ve been ghosted.
The Savior: At some point before unfriending you, the savior will pull you aside privately to have an earnest heart-to-heart conversation to discuss the wickedness of your political ways. The savior will end it by indicating there is hope for maintaining your relationship if you are able to accept the light, renounce your old views and repent, or at the very least keep your opinions to yourself. The savior believes he is being virtuous by displaying such magnanimity toward you.
The Drama Queen: This type will rather suddenly enter into a highly-charged tirade on how evil you are for not sharing her views and how she cannot be associated with you because “you’re not the person I thought you were”. She will permanently end contact with you with a sarcastic “Have a nice life!” as if to wish death upon you.
The Virtue Sniveler: This type waits for an opportunity to make a big scene out of the process of unfriending you to display her virtue to a broader audience. She will typically do so in a political conversation you may have gotten into with her on her social media post encouraging her friends to read Robin D’Angelo’s “White Fragility”. She will scold you for your bigotry before unfriending you and go on a virtue-sniveling tirade on not accepting bigotry among friends for all to see.
The Passive-Aggressive: This is the person who announces, “Unfriend me if………” on her Facebook page, or tells you, “I don’t think I can be friends with you if………”. The ifs are almost always followed by hallmark words of leftist moral outrage – Trump, racist, transphobic, homophobia, etc. The passive-aggressive wants you to do the work of unfriending her because it enables her to claim the moral high ground. She is giving you the option of silence if you value your relationship with her over your own conscience to speak your beliefs.
Political scientist Zach Goldberg has done some of the most extensive research on the rapidly changing political ideology of white liberals over the last decade that is remaking American politics, and the relationship between media, especially digital media, and the change in those attitudes, something he characterizes at the “digitalization of moral outrage”. This contrasts with the relative stability of attitudes of white conservatives.
“Due at least in part to digital media, white liberal attitudes that more or less endured for decades have been drastically overturned in the space of months or single years. In contrast, the attitudes of white conservatives – and conservatives in general – have moved at a more glacial pace, if at all. For liberals, the lack of awareness of how fast and far their attitudes have shifted fosters an illusion of conservative extremism. In reality, the conservatives of today and not all that different from the conservatives of years past. And it’s the frustration with white conservatives’ inability or reluctance to keep pace with liberals on the path to enlightenment that is intensifying our political divide.”
It is curious to me that I have lost so many friends in recent years that I have known for as much as three decades when my own views are, if anything, significantly more moderate than the more doctrinaire conservative views I held in my younger Reaganite days, at least on matters of economic and foreign policy. That was before the age of social media, but I certainly was not shy about expressing my views. Back then my liberal acquaintances were tolerant of those views, but now some consider them to be beyond the pale.