How Should You Respond to a Friend’s Appalling Post?

A best friend of 20 years — someone with whom I’m usually politically aligned — recently posted something political and inflammatory on Instagram. I strongly disagreed with her point of view, and the “evidence” she used to bolster her case felt speculative at best and conspiracy-theory-adjacent at worst.

I immediately texted her, telling her as much. And while casinoviva I was grateful that she did end up calling me, I lost my temperas soon as I realized that she wouldn’t accept differing evidence. I yelled, and she yelled back.
In the following days, however, it became clear to her that what she posted was misinformation, and after some emailing, she gave a milquetoast, formal apology to me. After another couple of weeks, I also apologized to her for losing my temper. And yet the friendship still feels terminally damaged. We aren’t speaking.

What should you do when you see that a close friend, someone who considers herself an advocate for truth and justice, posts something not only untrue but also damaging to good-faith arguments in general? And shouldn’t she update her followers? — Name Withheld

From the Ethicist:

It was good that you contacted your friend and set her right. And yes, once she accepted that she’d erred, she should have retracted her post. But the damage to your relationship wasn’t done by your correcting her or by her taking her time to accept that she was wrong. It was done by your losing your temper. Your friend made one kind of mistake with an ill-judged post. You made another in blowing up at her. (And your apology took longer than hers to arrive.) But none of that means that the friendship has to come to an end. If you aren’t speaking to each other, that’s something you have a chance to change by calling her.

I hope you will. In general, it’s bad to get in the habit of severing ties over a political disagreement. It seems even more unfortunate when two people are, like you and your friend, politically aligned, and when, as in your case, the substantive disagreement is over, your friend having conceded that you were right.

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