The Opinion On Everything Age

This morning I read an interesting observation on Facebook from Lisa Nowak. She’s noticed a big decline in presidential signs/bumper stickers in her hometown and every response cited the same two reasons for this:

No one’s mind is ever changed because of them and they invite trouble.

I agreed with everyone and don’t think this is limited to political opinions. For certain issues, I think it’s smarter to keep our opinions to ourselves. I still believe we’re entitled to our free speech, but we’re fooling ourselves if we think we can broadcast it anywhere we want without consequence.

Suppose you have presidential bumper sticker on your car. Many people who see it will form an immediate opinion about you and everything you stand for. Based on a name. One name. They know nothing about your background, how you grew up or any of your personal life experiences that shaped your opinion. Most people will quietly disagree with you and move on, but I think there’s always a chance of attracting the attention of someone who can’t move on. Their belief is so strong in the opposite direction, it’s impossible to imagine how anyone could think differently. I don’t want to be on that person’s radar.

This isn’t some sudden shift in human behavior. There have always been people ready to act against others who don’t agree with them. I think social media has changed the culture.

These days, many of us have our own little slice of the internet we lay claim to. Our forum to post our thoughts and beliefs. And if someone doesn’t agree, we can engage, block, unfriend or delete the offending commenter from existence. Unfortunately, this mentality has slipped into the real world and you’ve got people with no problem telling anyone who’ll listen what they think about everything.

Is this everyone’s right? Of course.

Is it a good idea to exercise this right everywhere? In a perfect world, sure. If anyone knows where that is, let me know.

Personally, I don’t share anything on social media, I wouldn’t share in person. I look at it as just another precaution that’s a part of everyday life.


7 comments on “The Opinion On Everything Age

  1. “I think social media has changed the culture.”

    This is where I disagree. The political yard sign was, in the past, simply a “hard copy” version of the political posts we read online now — you’re not taking into account the fact that historically, people have been much more closely intertwined with our physical neighbors than we are now. The yard, the house, the people inside were rarely blank slates upon which a political sign was slapped. People knew each other, often (up until the 1950s) grew up together, walked by each others’ houses, hosted each others’ kids overnight parties. The difference is not that social media has changed culture, but that our culture profoundly changed over the course of the second half of the 20th century, and social media reflects that. Now we flock to facebook instead of block parties or political rallies. We don’t put signs up because we don’t associate with anyone in our neighborhood and we doubt we could sway their vote with a sign. But we know our family and coworkers and friends, and on facebook we can post potentially inflammatory political statements with the understanding that the majority of people who read it know us as individuals and will take that into account. (exceptions abound, of course.)

    I am generally very wary of ever ascribing behavior to “social media has changed us.” No, social media has not changed us at all. In fact it is allowing us to interact and relate to each other in ways that were almost completely lost during the 20th century. People joke about posts saying what someone had for lunch, but 100 years ago, you knew what people had for lunch because they talked to you about it as you met them on the street on the way home from work, or at the store, or in church, or at the local park on Sunday afternoon. Social networking is a very old phenomenon, in fact I would argue it is the basis for a healthy society; the only difference now is in the delivery, not the content or the impulse. /2 cents

    • This right here, is why social media is awesome. You and I have a place we can have a conversation we, otherwise, never could. I’ve gained many new perspectives from the people I’ve met and I love it. That’s the good, but I think everything good can have a negative use, depending on who’s using it.

      This blog could be seen by anyone in the world. In the past, my opinions would be limited to family/friends/co-workers unless I worked for a publication. Since joining social media, I definitely feel more of an urge to put my thoughts out there. Sure, I still chat with real life people, but it’s very easy to do a quick tweet or status update. I think that access has changed our culture, for the most part, in a good way. But I’ve, personally, noticed more people willing to give out their opinions on everything. Maybe it’s not the only cause, but I think social media, in the form it’s evolved into, plays a part. This is all based on my experience with social media, so I really appreciate your two cents on this.

      You make a great point about neighborhoods, then and now. I know some of the neighbors on my block, but our lives aren’t intertwined. That being said, I’d be less concerned about their reaction to a yard sign and more to a random person who doesn’t know me at all. The chances of anything happening are super low and maybe I’m just paranoid, but I’d rather not risk it. Especially since, as you said, no one is swayed anyway.

      • Good points about the global reach vs. local neighbors, etc. I would agree that social media plays a part in developing people’s expectations (“I can yell at the whole world! hear me roar!!!” …or is that just me?) but I’d still boil it back down to the neighborhood mentality, especially in walled gardens like FB and twitter — we create the neighborhood from a planet-sized pool, but it still ends up being the place where the people there know me as an individual. I think blogs are good examples of what you are talking about: people speaking out for the sake of speaking out. But I always wonder: if they were before the Web, would they be making zines, or writing letters to the editor instead? The reach may not have been as great but I think the impulse has always been there.

        Of course no metaphor is perfect, and I think part of this stems from the whole “anonymous” culture that grew up online in the 90s and early 2000s — there was a lot of outrageousness going on simply because people thought they could. Kind of like Reddit trolls today, I suppose. 😛

  2. I’m one of those people who rarely says anything inflammatory online. I hate confrontation, so it’s rare that I want to cause it. That’s why I usually don’t write blog posts when I’m mad. It’s so easy to hide behind the internet, but I don’t want to say things I wouldn’t say in real life. Well, actually, you said that in your post. LOL I haven’t said on my blog or on Facebook ANYTHING political. I bet no one knows which candidate I’m even voting for. 🙂 Seriously, I think we should be respectful and courteous no matter where we say what we say.

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