Ah, social media… the enormous invisible, ever available art gallery, comedy show, encyclopedia and horror film at our fingertips. Our friend. Our teacher. Our god. Our worst enemy and biggest ally.
It’s not news to anyone that we live in a time wherein the rise of social media facilitates the fact that, at least in the first world, anybody can post any statement they like. It is then subject to the possible scrutiny of the rest of the online world. Millions of people have their say on whether tomato sauce belongs in the fridge or pantry. Honestly, it’s incredible.
However, SOME people (mostly the boomers) are angry because “you can’t have an opinion without offending SOMEONE”.
Here’s the thing right; they’re not wrong.
But it’s always been that way. It’s just that the age of social media means that people are way more likely to come across opinions that differ from their own. Generally, people are shocked and offended when they’re faced with the realisation that not everyone feels the same as they do. Not everyone is on their side. In this way, everything you say has the potential to offend someone.
It’s just that now when you scream something rude or discriminatory or offensive into the void, you are faced with the response to it. Sometimes that response is bigger than the one you’d get in person.
20 to 30 years ago, the only opinions you heard were the ones of your peers and family in your community which probably aligned very closely to yours. The internet means that people can access and assert opinions that exist outside of their personal experience. When handled and engaged with, it can be confronting, but it can also create change and growth.
Learning to let go of the idea that your experience and opinion is the most correct answer can be incredibly freeing. There’s no shame in admitting you’re wrong, and there’s always benefit in engaging in conversation under the assumption that you are wrong and that this person knows something you don’t. But if you are sitting there getting offended because people are offended, you’re wasting your time. You’re a part of the group you’re complaining about.
Putting arguments down to “everyone’s so offended these days” is retaliation for not feeling heard or validated in your opinion, and in turn, invalidating the other person’s argument by belittling what may be an excellent point instead of engaging with it.
That said, there is a difference between telling it how it is and just being a dick. Although you are under no obligation to be ‘nice’ in the sense that you don’t have to be unproblematic, passive or quiet. You are allowed to take up space and voice your opinion, just consider doing so in a way that doesn’t attack and limit someone else’s growth. Create empathy and grow from there. After all, why voice your opinion publically if it’ll cause more harm than good?
You clearly care about something. But is it the issue or the argument?
Stick up for others, stand up for yourself, sure. It’s okay to be angry. It can be productive, but understand it probably won’t create real, permanent change on its own. Anger makes a great jumping-off point for social change, but it only holds where there is education, empathy and forgiveness alongside it.
I think the most significant role model media-wise I’ve had is Chelsea Handler. For the simple fact that she’s not afraid to take up space and speak her mind, but she’s also so insistent in learning about other people’s experience of life. She recognises her privilege (and, more importantly, ADDRESSES it no matter how uncomfortable), actively develops empathy and admits mistakes shamelessly for the sake of growth.
Nothing is black and white. No one is entirely right or wrong because humans decided what was right and wrong. It’s not even real. But attacking someone else and/or their opinion won’t do anything. You can speak to them with the aim of evening out their viewpoint or making them aware of yours but not forcing them to agree. People are formed by their own experience, and that is valid.
That said, there is a right and a wrong way to voice your opinions. Your’ right to voice your opinion’ doesn’t take precedence over your responsibility to care for other human beings.
Alongside the ‘right to voice your opinion’ comes the responsibility to;
- Educate yourself before announcing the said opinion
- Empathise with other human beings, including, not limited to and ESPECIALLY those who you disagree with
- Understand how your personal experiences have influenced this opinion
- Analyse why you are sharing it and what sharing it would achieve. What is your goal?
- Consider the opinion of the person challenging yours.
Having an opinion isn’t enough anymore. It might never have been. I’m not saying words don’t change anything, but talking about it is counterproductive if it’s just words and words and words. We’re all so busy trying to convince each other that climate change exists; meanwhile, the world is decaying under our feet, You know?
“Do no harm take no shit,”
Leave a Comment