Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

Summary:Sigh. It's happened again and again. Facebook has caused my friends to fight.

Sigh. It's happened again and again. Facebook has caused my friends to fight.

Here's the story. I have a lot of friends with very diverse interests. I have the earthy-crunchy tree-hugger friends from the years I lived in California. I have the very martial, very conservative, very right-wing friends from some of the national security and military circles I've traveled in over the years.

Normally, I wouldn't invite these two groups to the same party. They don't play well with each other.

I also have friends who love Windows, some who are Linux aficionados, and some lovable but misguided sorts for whom Apple is the way in all things.

Also on CBS News: Does Facebook cause friends to fight?

These friends don't play well with each other either and often can't be in the same room. I remember vividly the evening I met a Mac-loving friend and a Windows-wise friend for sushi. My Windows-oriented friend spent the entire evening baiting the Mac fan, until my Apple-loving friend almost cried. Needless to say, I never issued another dinner invitation to those two in combination, again.

But then, there's Facebook.

On Facebook, all my friends can party together. When I posted to my Facebook feed one of my more politically-oriented articles, I was shocked at how crazy things got within hours.

One of my more loony liberal friends posted a comment that was particularly loony, even for a loony liberal. He's a kind, sweet, somewhat naive old gent, but I've known him for years and he's got a great heart.

One of my crazy conservative friends then proceeded to remove that heart and eat it.

To the liberal's defense jumped more libs. To the conservative's defense jumped more conservatives. Suddenly, my little Facebook posting was a war zone. Feelings were hurt on both sides, I had to drop a ton of combatants from my friends list, and I went on a Facebook friend moratorium for a month or so.

When I posted a link to one of my many Apple-related articles, insanity ensued. There were friends who agreed with me, friends who disagreed with me, and friends who proceeded to hate on other friends for whichever opinion they espoused.

It was nuts.

Sure, you could say I should choose from a better class of friends, but despite what you might think (who'd be friends with David?), many of these friends are actual pillars of society. Some of them are nationally-known best-selling authors. Some of them are top leaders in the military. Some of them are very successful business people and others are what the marketing drones call "thought leaders". One of my friends is even a professional wrestler. They're fun people, all.

All in all, these are people who, when in a room physically, probably wouldn't throw the first punch (although at least a few could certainly throw the last). But, on Facebook, they all seem to feel that brawling is perfectly reasonable.

I now post my articles to Facebook with far less frequency. I wanted to post 10 things (and 4 outrages) techies need to know about President Obama's State of the Union Address last month, but I had no idea who would attack who. Yesterday, I thought about posting 11 reasons NOT to buy an iPad 2 (including 6 that haven't changed from the iPad 1) but decided I didn't want to foster any friend-on-friend Facebook violence (although rabble-rousing here on ZDNet Government is just great fun).

So here's my question: does Facebook cause friends to fight? Because Facebook allows all your friends to see comments by all your friends, and you can't segregate one class of nut from another class of wacko, do your Facebook friends let loose on each other?

Here's the poll:

[poll id="65"]

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Topics: CXO, Linux, Open Source, Operating Systems, Social Enterprise, Software, Windows

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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