Do you remember what it was like when you had to actually go looking for bad news?
When it wasn’t the first thing that came up on your social media?
When it wasn’t the only thing your friends and family talked about?
I remember only a few years ago, living at my parents place, that I only ever really heard “bad news” when my dad was watching the news after he came home from work, or if it was REALLY bad news, that made headlines everywhere.
Today, you don’t have to go far to find it. Whether it’s small or large, bad news is everywhere. We can’t escape it. Instagram for example, which was once a fun way to share photos, memories, experiences and talents, has now become a mosh pit of political ideologies, fuelled largely by anger and passion. It has, in many ways, become a hostile environment where being of the “wrong” opinion can lead to extremely detrimental consequences.
I will say, that the sharing of political views isn’t always bad. Sometimes it can be constructive, and lead to the inspiring of change. It can also be educational, and create a foundation from which we can better understand the similarities and differences of our fellow man.
We enter dangerous territory however, when our political ideologies and views become more important to us than the value of the person holding them.
Over the past few months, we have seen many conversations come to the forefront of our society. Vaccines, mandates, protests; the list has been increasing dramatically by the day.
It’s shouldn’t be surprising that the views on important topics will vary. It’s one of the unique things about the human species, that we all come to our conclusions in different ways that are often largely shaped by our past experiences.
Of course we can’t all be right, just as we can’t all be wrong. The truth often lies somewhere in the middle, but we run into problems when two sides of a debate are unwilling to truly see the perspective of their opponent.
It seems today as if true, genuine, respectful conversation is no longer a means through which we communicate with each other.
We reserve our opinions for heated posts on social media. Putting our thoughts into the world as if we are certain they will make a difference somehow. And maybe they will. But when did we become a society that has lost the ability to debate? To talk through the various pros and cons of any viewpoint and come to a logical conclusion based on the facts (or opinions) presented?
That is how we learn.
We learn when we can hear both sides of an argument, find a common ground, and talk our differences out in a respectful way. For sure we won’t always agree, and many of these discussions will lead us in circles. But at least we may see face-to-face the human being behind the opinions.
At least we can look somebody in the eyes, see their humanity, and remember the weight of our words before we say them.
This isn’t something that social media allows for. We don’t care who we hurt or offend when it’s us and our screens, and this is where we can begin to lose the ability to have empathy.
I can certainly say from my own experience that being in a perpetual state of lockdown over the past two years has affected my ability to empathize. I’ve found that when I’ve been deprived of face-to-face interaction, it’s been easier and easier to confine my opinions of people to what they post on social media, and not who they actually are at their core.
All of this is not to say that we should just stop posting our views on social media.
The point I’m trying to make is that there is a valuable person behind every opinion. You may not immediately think so if their views are offensive to you, but I tell you truly, that we are hastening the downfall of our societies if we continue to treat each other based on our views, and not on our shared humanity.
If winning an argument is more important to us than respecting and seeking value in the person we are arguing with, we’ve already lost.