Opinion and Social Media

This post isn’t about Caitlyn Jenner.

It is, however, spurned by all the pervasive conversation about her in the media — whether you want to read about her or not, it’s going to happen. I’m neutral on the whole matter — I don’t know what it’s like to feel born in the wrong body, I don’t know what it’s like to be raised in the 50s and 60s, I don’t know what it’s like to be famous. (I’m pretty grateful for all that.)

There’s been a lot of war over several controversial topics in the past several months, none of which I’ve felt particularly inclined to join ranks. In fact, when it comes to anything more than pithy or non-substantive, I don’t share my opinion on really anything in a public manner. Oh, sure, I’ll come right out and tell you you’re wrong for not giving sushi a chance, but I don’t think a war of the ages will erupt over it.

If one were to erupt, I’d probably encourage you to seek out some mood stabilizers.

This is largely personal choice — I used to be a lot more vocal with my opinions, popular or not, because it was my RIGHT to share them, I was ENTITLED to share them with people, they NEEDED to hear what I had to say. I’d say the first of these notions is the most correct, but I’m going to just let you in on a secret you’ll learn by the time you’re in your thirties — you’re not really entitled to do anything, and nearly no one actually needs to hear what you have to say. Oh sure, it’s fun to let the world know, just by clicking one “post” button, exactly how you feel about a particular topic at a very specific time and date in your life, in this way that almost implies your opinion will not be changing because you’ve made it Facebook/Twitter official, but when all is said and done, when people have been blocked and relationships have been severed, was it actually worth it? Did anyone actually win?

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It’s my right, as a human being, to have the opinions I do, and I choose to share them at will with very specific people at very specific times (and lest you think I only associate with like-minded people, might I remind you that I am a registered Democrat in Utah, so). I don’t care much for conflict these days, nor do I have the tolerance for unnecessary argument, and it gets really old really fast to hear people tell others that they’re wrong. Just to educate you really briefly,

opinion

noun opin·ion \ə-ˈpin-yən\

: a belief, judgment, or way of thinking about something : what someone thinks about a particular thing

You might (and can) disagree, but opinion isn’t one of those things that can be right or wrong. I’ll just go ahead and repeat that part — opinion isn’t right or wrong. That’s what makes opinions so magical. Just as I imagine you hope someone would allow you to think or feel however you wish, you should probably allow others the same courtesy, even the ones whose opinions are hand-wringingly, fist shakingly, eye rollingly bad.

And that’s what this post is really about. The opinions that are, shall we say, less than popular.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons, LDS, etc.), I’ve seen my fair share of response to what is considered unpopular belief. And not to get into the ins and outs of it all (because, as we’ve already established, my religious beliefs are my own, and if you don’t like what a particular religion has to say, then move on), I’ll just kind of leave it at that. But in the media, especially as of late, those Mormons (insert head shake here) are just some awfully bigoted, old-fashioned, reverse-thinking haters. DAMN THEM ALL. [I shouldn’t have to put this here, but I’m being totally facetious here. I respect the teachings of my church and believe almost all of them whole-heartedly — hey I’m a human after all — and think everyone should have respect for Mormons.] I actually missed those lessons in Church, so I just love everyone no matter what. [That’s a stretch. I have no room in my heart to love people who are cruel to animals or children.] Chances are a lot of Mormons are kind of in the same camp as me. If we’re going to be honest here.

And there’s the rub. You’re encouraged to voice your opinion all day and all night, on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram (do people do that? Do they share opinions on Instagram? I just share pictures of food.), UNLESS (and here’s the real caveat) you’re in the camp of the unpopular. And then probably keep it to yourself.

There’s something really polarizing about that mentality, and I find it often very unfair. It’s great if you have the same opinion as the rest of the world, but if yours is even the slightest bit different, if you’ve come to a fork in the road and gone the other route, then it’s just much easier for everyone if you would just not say a word ever. Keep it to yourself, they say. Just don’t talk about it. The thing is, however, when it comes to sharing one’s opinion, especially quite publicly and socially, it’s not a one-sided thing. Shouldn’t everyone be allowed to voice his/her opinion no matter the stance without fear of major repercussion? Though I choose not to, if I WERE to get real personal about something controversial (and I did so in a non-inflammatory manner — guys that’s so important. You can absolutely disagree with people without being inflammatory, I promise.), shouldn’t I be afforded the same rights as the people whose opinion is most agreed upon? Shouldn’t everyone?

I think so. But that’s my opinion.

To switch gears a little bit, there are some truths you need to understand about sharing your opinion, popular or not, on social media. I actually wrote an entire senior capstone on how social media (at the time, MySpace because I’m old. Really old. Pluto was a planet when I was a kid old.) was going to alter the way society interacted with itself forever. #nailedit

While I find there are a lot of major benefits to social media, the downsides are becoming almost too prevalent for me. That might be because I’m getting older and ain’t nobody got time for dat. People are too quick to judge, to argue, to defriend, and to gossip these days, and *sighs* it doesn’t feel worth it in the end. Anyhow. The Truths.

  1. Being inflammatory isn’t going to get you anywhere. I imagine the majority of people will be happy to hear your opinion so long as you’re not a jerk about it.
  2. Educated, researched opinion is easier for most people to swallow than the rantings and ravings of someone who, ultimately, just wants an audience. We know what you’re doing.
  3. Not everyone is going to agree with you. Plan on people doing so in the same public way you shared your opinion in the first place. If you don’t want to hear anyone else’s views, then perhaps you shouldn’t post yours and instead discuss it with your family and close friends.
  4. Sometimes, even if you’re not inflammatory or rude, people will respond in that manner. It’s frustrating. It’s uncalled for. Being frustrating and uncalled for back isn’t going to get you anywhere, so if you’re unhappy letting them be that way without argument, well … see #3.
  5. Understand that those with unpopular views on a particular topic, especially those motivated by religious beliefs and practices, have just as much right to share them as everyone else, even *sighs* the Westboro Church, though they really need to understand #1-3, amirite. Before going on the offensive, consider the notion that you may not fully understand that person’s religion because you lack the faith that drives you to follow the teachings and principles of it. Faith is a powerful thing for religious people, and they do not take it lightly.
  6. Sometimes your opinion will change over time. Before you go in, guns ablazin’ about a particular topic, consider that, and then consider whether you’re willing to deal with possible backlash when it does, and you share it, again, in a public manner. People will dredge up the past and point out to you your newfound self-contradiction. Because people love a fight.
  7. Your opinion is actually not affected in any way by whether you post it to social media or not. I have loads of opinions, and they’re just as real and true today as they will be tomorrow, despite the fact that I haven’t broached them, ever, in a public forum.

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And (again this is my opinion) for the love of all that is good and holy, if you see a Facebook thread war, don’t jump into it. That’s ridiculous. No one’s minds will be changed, no one’s going to see the light, it’s just going to create a disgusting amount of notifications for everyone involved and a lot of anger. Go ahead and try to not ruin your family’s evening with the fire in your belly that’s come from a Facebook war. Just try it.

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