With friends like these ...

Apr 14, 2010 at 5:00 am

I recently unfriended my first Facebook “friend,” and it was truly liberating. In fact, the only shame stems from the fact that it took so long.

It all started several months ago when a former grade school classmate requested my friendship. Having no negative memories of this person as a young lad, I accepted without hesitation. Until that point, Facebook had proven to be a useful tool that allowed me to reconnect with people I’d lost touch with due to time or distance. At the very least, it was an entertaining means of procrastinating. (I may or may not have checked for updates while writing this column.)

Upon casually perusing the profile of my long-lost pal in a friendly, non-stalker kind of way, I noticed he was an avid fan of both Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin. Interesting. Needless to say, this prompted further investigation.

As I dug deeper into my new friend’s virtual autobiography, I learned he’s also an admirer of FOX News windbags Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, a member of the evangelist group “Real Men Pray the Rosary,” and is thrilled to live in Florida, not because of the sunny beaches, but because Republicans outnumber Democrats there two-to-one.

Then I stumbled upon the list of Facebook groups to which he belongs: Stop BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA, Nationwide Tax Day Tea Party, The Limbaugh Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies, and #1 Kentucky Wildcat Fans!

So apparently we have nothing in common, other than the fact that we were classmates for a brief stint. But it takes all kinds, right? And so we remained friends.

But as the political discourse heated up in D.C. in recent months — particularly over health care reform — things got a little dicey on the Facebook front.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a spirited debate. But the vitriol my fellow elementary school alum was spewing certainly did not qualify as a healthy exchange of ideas. Here are just a few examples of his status updates:

“Nancy Pelosi is a stupid bitch!”

“Child predators are the real victims, they commit their actions due to anger over not having universal health care.” (Sarcasm noted … good one, buddy!)

“Our country is currently run by Socialist tyrants.”

“Will I be able to purchase malt liquor and lottery tickets with food stamps?”

“Jim Bunning = Awesome.”

“Sitting in traffic in America’s toilet — New Orleans.”

“Liberals love poor people. They spend so much time making more of them.”

“I’m renting an H1 Hummer to celebrate Earth Day.”

Despite my disgust, we remained connected for several more weeks, due in part to an inexplicable feeling of guilt at the prospect of unfriending someone, but more so because of a twisted sense of curiosity. What the hell was he going to say next? I liken this to my sadistic compulsion to listen to Rush Limbaugh while on a long road trip. I rant and rave in response to every vile, inaccurate, condescending remark he makes, but I refuse to turn the dial. I just can’t help myself. Plus, it really makes the time pass.

But back to my online friend-turned-foe … When finally challenged by a fellow Facebooker about a string of particularly unsettling and untrue comments he made about health care reform, this ghost of my grade school past responded with these gems: “Did Acorn give you your talking points?” and “Maybe I should make a donation to the Rainbow Coalition to make you feel better.”

Classic deflection technique — when lacking a valid counterpoint, rattle off unrelated right-wing asides. And when that fails, just start hurling insults, like say, calling people leeches and slackers.

And so I finally checked the box marked “Remove Connection.” Facebook friendship terminated.

I have friends and family who fall on vastly different points on the political spectrum — unapologetic socialist, fiscal conservative, full-blown conspiracy theorist, apolitical slacker, and everything in between. For the most part, we all peacefully co-exist, respectfully challenging disparate viewpoints. That said, I have no patience — in real life or on Facebook — for hate, intolerance and ignorance.

Don’t think I flatter myself enough to presume this person will care that I gave him the virtual boot. Chances are he’ll never even notice.

And if he does, I’m sure he’ll agree he doesn’t need a bleeding heart like me as a friend.