Too many times this election cycle I’ve seen someone brag that all their friends on social media agree with them about the election or a certain issue.

This is not something that should be bragged about. It does not make you a better person.

If you unfriend or shut out people with other viewpoints, no matter how deplorable you think their viewpoints are, you have no room to complain about how “divided” our nation is becoming. You are part of the problem.

Complaining about polarization while pushing opposing viewpoints away is basically saying, “Everyone should agree with me without any effort on my part to convince them I’m right.”

Newsflash: People have had different life experiences than you, and those experiences inform their views. They’re not emotionless hacks who just want to watch the world burn. There’s a reason they believe what they believe, and those reasons are often complex. You would be wise to try to understand their backgrounds and to explore why they support certain policies are oppose others.

To be clear, this is something that people on both sides of the aisle are guilty of, and it’s a huge mistake. But it’s especially hypocritical for liberals, who harp about the importance of diversity and tolerance, but don’t give the time of day to ideological or political diversity or tolerance.

Unfriending people gives away your opportunity to persuade them.

Let’s say you’re an ardent Black Lives Matter supporter, and a Facebook friend posts “Black Lives Matter is stupid. We need to support our police.” Instead of racing to the “unfriend” button in a fit of rage, take a deep breath and try to understand what your friend is saying.

Don’t assume that he thinks police should be able to kill black people without consequence. Take a few minutes to think about why your friend thinks that way. Perhaps even engage him or her. An appropriate response might be something like “I disagree that Black Lives Matter is stupid. Of course I think all lives matter, including white lives and police lives. But Black Lives Matter is bringing attention to discrimination in our criminal justice system. These problems uniquely affect African-Americans.”

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What do you think is more likely to make the Facebook friend change his mind, or at least think deeper about his position? Unfriending him and shutting him out, or leaving a thoughtful comment?

As a counter example, let’s say you’re not a Black Lives Matter fan and a Facebook friend posts “Black Lives Matter! Cops are pigs.” Don’t defriend, try to make him think more deeply about the issue. An appropriate comment would be something like, “I agree that we need to investigate police killings more thoroughly than we do and to be alert to possible institutional discrimination. We can also agree that the deaths of people like Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and Michael Brown are tragic. But most cops are not ‘pigs.’ What about this Philadelphia cop who bought coffee and sandwiches for homeless people and was shot and nearly killed by an assassin? What about this Texas cop who saved two women from a sinking car? Some cops are bad, but most of them do a lot of good.”

Of course, these comments alone aren’t going to change anyone’s mind. But they can plant a seed and start a conversation. It’s progress even if the Facebook friend responds with, “Okay, I guess Black Lives Matter isn’t stupid but I still don’t agree,” or “Okay, not all cops are pigs, but the ones that kill black people are.”

We’re never going to agree on everything. And that’s a good thing. But we could do a better job putting in the effort to understand people with whom we disagree. It will make us a smarter, less divided country. Unfriending doesn’t help anybody.

Jason Russell is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.

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