It never surprises me. When you’ve been online as long as I have, you grow used to unkind words in the online world.

“I no longer want to follow someone who thinks like you.”

“I no longer want to do business with someone who looks like you.”

“I hope you die.”

I’ve started playing around on my Instagram account with Reels. My first try at it brought a comment I burst out laughing at:

What does that even mean? Really?

Of course, it doesn’t take any more than logging into any account, and you’ll find meanness and hatred spreading like wildfire.

I consistently see people posting their “beliefs” as if they are the only way to live. I stand for “this.” I believe in “this.”

“And if you don’t, then unfriend me.”

It’s touching everybody I know.

I received an email from a man I’ve followed for years. He went political in his recent post.

He’s proud of staying focused to his mission. He stays out of political discussions. Yet now, because of where we are today, he believes a healthy democracy depends on active participation. Staying true to your word, even if it costs you followers.

Let the unfriending begin.

And the scathing comments began, hundreds of them unleashing their true feelings.

As I finished that email, I read another from a woman in a completely different part of the world. She’s in another industry, I follow her for different reasons. Yet surprisingly, her words were the same.

Last week I received an email – it was time to part company. Your beliefs and views are way off track. I can no longer follow you.

This is my life

Several years ago, I walked away from people who no longer shared my views.

Change. Or else. We were given a choice.

We took the “or else.”

I thought we were alone. I didn’t realize this was a growing trend, something that was happening all over the country world.

Slowly, it has built. One day at a time, people have drawn lines in the sand, become rigid, no longer accepting what the other has to say.

You’re with me, or you’re Hitler.

You’re with me, or you’re dead.

If you don’t believe my way, I’m unfriending you everywhere I can.

I used to think I was alone. I wouldn’t say any of this out loud.

But as I opened up, I discovered there are sooooo many more in the same boat.

Making peace and forgiving

If you hold inside the words that people sling at you regularly, you’ll fall.

I remember the nasty comments I received years ago as my first blog gained traction. The first “you suck” or “you’re stupid” really hurt.

By the time comments graduated to “I could never do business with someone as ugly as you,” my view of the world changed for good.

The first step is to block malicious behavior. I believe that is critical both online and off. If anybody – ANYBODY – can’t consider feelings before they open their mouths (or type with their fingers), then it’s time to step back from the relationship. Delete. Tell them goodbye. Step away and ignore.

The second step is internalizing what was done. If the relationship was meaningful, is it worth another try? Can you have a decent conversation? Will both parties even listen?

If you can’t “hear” each other, there can be no conversation.

And that’s okay too. It’s better to be strong for yourself than to back down, pull back inside, and accept “life as usual.”

Step three is forgiveness. You can forgive behavior, without having to condone it.

I realize all of those friends and family I’ve unfriended in the past are human with their own belief systems.

They’ve chosen their paths. I’ve chosen mine.

What happens in the future …

What does the future look like? I honestly have no idea.

Can relationships last when we’re no longer on the same path?

Can we stay together as a community when our visions no longer align?

Are there ways to split, ways to carry on as two, putting aside we ever enjoyed being together?

Can we overcome the words, the division, the hatred?

Can we get past the fact that we no longer want to be friends?

Or is it time to unfriend?

Just something I’m thinking about right now …