A Lost Friend
If we roll the clock back to January 2020 - we have a blog post I wrote related to Epidemics about the start of the Wuhan outbreak. I ended that post with this line:
There is even rumor as of writing this post that the 3rd confirmed case in USA has been identified.
Little did I know while writing that what would later happen, because as you know we had way more than 3 confirmed cases. What I couldn't predict would happen is how this event of COVID-19 sparked so many events that resulted in losing an individual as a friend.
In group chats the first event that started debates among friends was the rise of wearing a mask.
This led to what I would describe as a heated argument amongst a group of random friends. There was this one friend in specific that couldn't believe he was being forced to wear a mask and frequently ignored the request. This boiled down to being American, but spawned so many debates in our chat. I'm sure these discussions were prevalent in thousands of chats around the world.
Our group was getting divided - those who wouldn't mind putting some cloth on their face to protect the safety of others and thus who felt it was a violation of their rights and disgusting to breath their own exhale. At this point though we were still all friends even if discussions got heated at times.
Boy though - it was getting old fast. It seemed for this one individual that he was turning to avoiding business at any place that refused him service for refusal of wearing a mask. When that occurred - it was straight to the group chat to release that rant of that business and start all the discussions up again. Personally, I was convinced this friend was just going door to door in order to find places that would react to his disobedience, because it seemed like this guy shopped a lot.
This is when we lost someone in the group chat - this I believe occurred when arguments got heated.
I couldn't have predicted that this would have further accelerated to extreme drama when the COVID-19 vaccine was available. When December 2020 hit our friend group again had folks posting and discussing the different brands of vaccination. This was more a discussion of the shot, the feeling and recovery and everything in between.
I'm sure you can tell where this is going - that one friend was livid that anyone would subject themselves to an alleged rushed, controlling and poisonous cocktail. This is what basically broke the chat because like all arguments they all get back to politics at some point. It seemed someone found a trigger point with some discussion item for this individual. It seemed this awoke a beast within him - it went into realms that I thought were legitimately jokes.
We were now in discussions about mind control, 5G towers and Bill Gates sponsoring vaccine development. I'm fairly sure that a good chunk of this group muted this chat somewhere around this point as the responders of these discussions basically became the same three people.
For the most part - the chat died after this event and stayed dead. When I peeked back at some point - there was only 4 of us left. My guess is the others read up on the chat when they had time and didn't like what they saw and left.
I stayed in the chat because much like on Twitter if I unfollowed everyone I disagree with, then my feed becomes a never ending circle of things I want to see and agree with. I need to see some things I don't agree with to keep me on edge from falling into an algorithm trap of a warped perception. Now of course typing that staying in a group chat vs following someone on a social media site seem completely different.
As months passed - it was clear this group of random engineers chatting was dead, but we still interacted a bit on GitHub/Twitter when paths crossed. Since COVID-19 gave us a lot of time at home - we were programming a lot.
One morning I jumped onto GitHub and saw a comment from this same individual asking a very odd question on a repository. This was some repository about visualizing police brutality in response to the George Floyd death. I don't even feel comfortable posting what was said, but the comment was intended to evoke a response about the situation and had nothing to do with the project.
I was pretty upset reading this because in my head I was trying to figure out if this friend/individual had his beliefs warped in the short period of a pandemic or had actually believed these things himself since forever.
This is where I realized I had to do something, but out of selfishness. It turns out this individual had not stopped growing into this realm of just pure hate, racism and misinformation. They were not afraid of posting it everywhere now from images, responses and more. It seemed this individual just wanted to argue with people on the Internet and I realized my affiliation was public with this individual.
I looked at some of my recent follows and interactions on Twitter and I didn't like what I saw. It seemed association with a friend had caught up to me.
So I messaged him and asked him what was going on. That was a terrible idea. There was a loud rejection for everything I asked: I'm being brainwashed, I get my news from fake sources, I'm turning into every possible bad word. Even when I broke questions down to their absolute basic form he doubled down or even tripled down to some very morally/ethically wrong points. I couldn't even have a good adult conversation about differing opinions without getting tilted.
For a brief moment I wondered if some of it could be true. Could I inadvertently be getting my news/research/ideas from warped sources? That only lasted for a few microseconds when I realized we were talking about simple ethical and moral issues at the end of it.
So I started with a friend I thought I knew - we built some great projects together. Now this individual is blocked on every platform and my association has been broken. So I lost a friend and I'm guessing this story isn't unique to me, but this draft has been sitting for years - so time to finish it.