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A Question of Opinion

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

What's different about opinions today than from yesteryears?  In a word (or two), social media.  There is an old saying, "Opinions are like assholes, everyone has one and they all stink."  Two things, the quote itself is an opinion (Irony anyone?) And the opinion it states doesn't seem very respectful.  I bring up respect because I was asked about respecting other's opinions, and the more I thought about it, the more I thought - people don't respect others and never have, if one's opinion is not in alignment with their own opinion.  So what is different today? 

It's just my opinion, (insert snarky smile here) but people are more "vocal" today. When you shared your opinion before social media, it was within a small group of people.  It might have gotten heated, there might have been vulgarities thrown around but it was spoken and typically not recorded. When the event ended or the group broke up and went on to other venues the discussion was done and people moved on.  Today, someone writes a post, through Twitter, Facebook, a blog, and suddenly masses of people, (often people who have never even met) people from all over the world have something to say about that opinion. (And it is there forever, screenshots have added a new dynamic to the permanency of our responses.)  Add in that the people responding are behind a screen at a keyboard typically far far away from the original opinion writer and they feel "safe" in saying whatever they please.  In a face to face group, there was always a risk of being popped in the face with a fist or something, no worry about the physical retort on social media!

Today, it would seem as though more people very quickly make personal threats and use vulgar language to cut down another person's opinion when it doesn't match their own views because social media is, well, immediate. It isn't that people didn't disagree before the internet, it is just the internet has made discussions larger and more accessible. This is not reserved for politics and religion.  People will get into heated arguments over sports, entertainment, lawn care, driving, and just about anything.  If you have an opinion about something and you put it out there on social media to the public, I can almost guarantee that you will hit a nerve with someone who has to share why your opinion is wrong.

The super tragedy of this is, we now have venues in which we can reach an abundance of people from all different backgrounds. We could learn so much. We have the ability to read, contemplate and think before reacting.  There isn't a time limit on when we can respond to a post.  We can also choose not to respond. (Remember when Momma said, "If you don't have anything nice to say, best to not say anything at all"?) However, so many choose not to only respond but to actually attack the person.  Not the opinion, they do not debate or set forth valid reasons for their difference of opinion but actually, attack the person with words because their opinion differs.  I believe these attacks are the worst part of social media and the biggest difference between the pre-internet era and today.  Even if people did attack the person verbally, I do not feel that people threatened them.  I don't recall anyone telling someone to "go kill themselves" just because their opinion differed from theirs.  Granted, I've not lived everywhere, I have not been privy to every debate of opinion throughout time and the world, however, it is, again, my opinion that many have thrown out discretion, hide behind their anonymity, and often write terrible hurtful things to strangers without thought of how damaging it can be.  This is the sad dark side of the internet and social media. The new questions we should be asking ourselves before we post comments are: How does my comment benefit the conversation? How does my comment help us to move forward as a society? and maybe most importantly: Would I say this comment out loud face to face in front of a large group?

We need, more than ever, to check ourselves before typing.  The animosity today is thick.  Tensions are high and it would seem, understanding and empathy have fallen by the wayside.  We have more and quicker access to a larger amount of information and people.  Instead of being quick to attack another's opinion how about we take a little time to get to know where people are coming from, what background they have, and "listen," ask questions, learn and maybe even comment with, "I respectfully disagree and this is why," rather than attacking.  It all starts somewhere, let kindness and understanding begin with you.

#BeKind #LoveLotsSmileOften

Posted by MommaHattie at 12:47 PM

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