I posted this on my personal FB wall, and I’ve been thinking about it even more and wanted to expand on it.
“Does anyone feel like social media has made it so that for every discussion we have, or for every story that is told, we are expected to pick a hill on one extreme of the situation or the other and commit to dying on it?
Truth is important, but for nearly all situations that I am not directly involved in, it’s going to be impossible to know what the truth is, and in all likelihood, it’s not going to be on one extreme hill or the other. Truth is going to be somewhere down in that densely forested valley where actions, intentions, motivations, memory, political agenda, moral compasses, and emotion all mix together in tangled confusion.
This culture of pithy memes, brutal clap backs and epic mic drop moments has lead us to buy into the myth that deep and complicated issues can be summed up by a click bait headline or a political cartoon.
I’m an author—a story teller—and in order to tell a good story, you have to be wide awake to the fact that one perspective will never tell the entire story, and that everyone has biases built into their DNA.
Does that mean we should stop choosing sides, or stop debating? Absolutely not. Discussion is good. LISTENING to other sides is good. Explaining why you believe the way you do is good.
But maybe we can be a little kinder and acknowledge that our hill isn’t the only worthwhile hill around.”
We see this in almost all arenas. We each have different priorities and go about our lives choosing different avenues. That’s good. That’s life. That’s what happens when unique people live unique lives.
But now that we’ve each been handed a bullhorn, and given multiple forums where the norm of communication is to stick a pithy quote on an eye-catching background, it’s easy to think that for every opinion we have, it needs to be the RIGHT opinion. Not only that, but it breeds an environment where respecting someone with an opposing view is nearly impossible.
Those of us with an opinion that doesn’t reside one one extreme hill or the other are too afraid to speak up because we don’t want to risk the wrath of those shouting obscenities from their hilltops. Opinions are stated in absolutes. And often there is an implied insult or threat to anyone who thinks differently.
Civilized discourse is so rare on social media, that when it does happen, we’re all surprised. There’s usually a, “Wow! Thanks everyone for being so respectful in this discussion. I thought it would blow up in my face.” That’s because it usually does. Even if we think a post is completely innocuous, it can turn into a blood bath because someone will make the assumption that by stating an opinion, even in the most benign this-is-only-my-opinion way, we are saying that anyone who thinks differently is wrong. Suddenly someone is shouting at us about intolerance or not having a clue when really, it was just a thought or opinion we had. But we’ve been conditioned by social media into the US vs THEM mentality, so a lot of people are ready and willing to jump into the fight with their knives drawn.
So here’s a shoutout to all of us who are just tired. Tired of the endless cacophony of people who know they are right. Tired of people who turn everything into an argument. Tired of being afraid to even ask for more information because we don’t want to be sacrificed to the gods of social media opinion.
And here’s hoping we can all find ways to engage in civilized discourse despite the odds that are stacked against us. Because if the only voices out there are simply the extreme opinions fighting the be the loudest in their rightness, then this thing is only going to get worse.
There’s your cheery thought for the day.