It’s that time of the election cycle. Our feeds are full of political opinions. A friend of mine posted an article about how easy it is to offend our virtual friends on Facebook. This made me reflect a bit on how we project ourselves to the virtual world. I personally don’t mind all the opinions, even if I often choose to stay on the sidelines, piping in with likes and comments instead of starting the discussions myself.
The way I look at it, if someone wants to unfriend me or stop following me for my beliefs, that’s fine. Makes me wonder why I’d want to be connected with someone that doesn’t respect me for my differences in the first place. Likewise, I have shed a few connections over the years for their consistently hateful ideas, which has only left me feeling lighter in knowing that those people don’t belong in any facet of my life.
Instead of seeing the barrage of opinions put out into the online universe as overkill or offensive, I see the Internet as a useful, natural filter for deciding who I really want to have in my online sphere. Sure there are plenty of relatives and coworkers and old friends and acquaintances I do not agree with, but as long as the dialogue is kept respectful, I like that there is a place in this world where they can express themselves openly and I can know them a little better.
This whole idea that we should not have hard conversations with the people in our lives gets under my skin. If we cannot have them in real life, as the article points out is often the case, then I am happy they can occur, even superficially, in the virtual sphere. The only way the world changes is if we start to listen to each other and understand our differing perspectives a little better.
I know it may seem like all the political noise does not really change anything, but I think it does, little by little. When I was in high school, gay kids were beat up, and no one publicly said anything to stop it. Now, all those same kids are grown-ups with Facebook accounts, and suddenly it is pretty mainstream to speak up for gay rights, (even if some of these adults are still on the other side of the fence). This shift in dialogue is just one example of how putting ideas out there can make other people feel safer in voicing their opinions too.
So, as your feeds fill up with ideas you may or may not agree with, I encourage you to be grateful a space exists where people actually speak their minds. Maybe eventually it will make people brave enough to start having important discussions in real life too. And, if nothing else, at least it shows us where the people in our lives stand, whether it be on the left or the right, or in a space of wanting to say nothing.