When I first joined social media, I gained many real and virtual friends. The number of them gradually increased. But at one point, I started noticing that some of them were unfollowing me or even turning into haters, people who hated me and constantly criticized me. The most surprising thing was that among them were my friends and acquaintances from real life. One was a classmate, another a fellow student, one was a former colleague, and one I played football with.

Until recently, we had been on good terms, congratulating each other on holidays in group chats, and occasionally calling each other. And then suddenly I see them leaving negative comments under my posts, filled with hatred.

I could have, as is customary in such cases, been offended by them, spoken ill of them in return, poked around in their posts to find a reason for a counter-critique, or, ultimately, just blocked them. But I became interested in why this was happening. I started analyzing.

I realized that some of my friends became disappointed in me when I started criticizing the socialist way of life, the “Soviet” lifestyle. They considered it a betrayal of our common values. Indeed, in childhood and youth, I was a fervent supporter of communism, as an embodiment of justice and equality among people. But then, after the restructuring, when the Iron Curtain fell and it became possible to compare life in the Soviet Union and the West, I understood the difference between total equality and equality of opportunities. Since then, I have become a staunch supporter of capitalism. For this, many of my friends, former pioneers, and Komsomol members, have come to hate me.

In 2014, I lost another group of friends when I condemned Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Many Russian Kazakhs are very sensitive to criticism of all things Russian. And some of them, deep down, associate themselves more with Russia than with Kazakhstan. They have absorbed Kremlin propaganda, worship Putin, and sincerely believe that he “lifted Russia off its knees” and made the whole world respect, or rather, fear, the “great Russia.” Understandably, they perceived my criticism of Putin as a personal insult and came to hate me.

Another group of friends turned away from me when I openly called myself a nationalist-patriot, that is, a fighter for the development of Kazakh culture and the Kazakh language. They saw it as an attempt to infringe on their right to use the more familiar and closer Russian language. My proclamation of the right of Kazakh-speaking citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan to receive services in their country in Kazakh, the state language, they called the oppression of the Russian minority, chauvinism, and Nazism, and they hated me for it.

Later, when I openly called myself an atheist, another large group of friends and relatives excommunicated me. Many of them sincerely believe that a Kazakh must automatically be a Muslim. Some of them have long, while others have only recently, found solace and meaning in faith. They equate faith with morality and believe that all atheists and even non-Muslims are potentially immoral individuals. Therefore, my atheism and, even more so, the active promotion of atheist views were met by them as an attack on their moral principles and as a seduction of their children. They, too, stopped being my friends.

That’s how I lost many of my former real and virtual friends. Sometimes I think: was it necessary for me? Maybe I should have just kept quiet or only congratulated everyone on holidays, not revealing my views, not expressing my opinion on the most important phenomena of our lives. That way I would have had more friends.

And then I think: what’s the point of such a quiet, unremarkable life as a “gray mouse”? Isn’t it my mission to change our society for the better (of course, in my opinion)? After that, I calm down and write my posts again, which not everyone likes.

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