Is an opinion an opinion if it isn’t posted on social media?
It’s an age-old question. Right up there with if a tree falls in the woods, and how much wood could a woodchuck chuck?
Don’t get the wrong impression, opinions hold value — quite a bit of value. Oftentimes they function to spur critical thinking, help to influence our peers and sometimes just vent. The introduction of social media has done wonders for the opinionated. The warm hug of a thumbs up, even better a little red heart from across the world can be intoxicating. You are validated. People agree with you. You must be RIGHT! My quandary is, just how much weight should an opinion hold?
Should a widely held and well-liked opinion become cannon? Should lawmakers utilize Twitter opinion polls to create policy? What is the function of opinions in a Facebook group as it relates to educators in their day-to-day decision making? Is my opinion “more right” than yours based on the number of shares?
We seem to have arrived at a time in the world where the power of opinion is a golden spear, wielded with reckless abandon and shielded by everyone’s favorite amendment. That’s the First Amendment for those of you trying to decide between one, two and twenty-one. I’m pro-ninth, but that is a topic for another day.
I understand I just asked a lot of questions and now seems like a good time to tell you that I don’t have the answers. I, like you, have a lot of opinions on the topic. Well-liked, correct opinions.
I have found the greatest amount of value in working to grow the parameters of opinions rather than seeking to destroy those thoughts and feelings that some cling to for dear life. For example, I work in public housing. Take just a moment to conjure your opinion of public housing. It could be based on personal experience, a class you took in college, a story you heard your grandparents tell, but be honest with yourself. What is YOUR opinion of public housing?
Recently, while having coffee with a friend, she asked me what we do, because in reality she had no clue. Her entire perspective had been formed on driving down Bono Road in New Albany on her way from one place to another.
During our hourlong chat I shared with her the work being done to modernize outdated and difficult to maintain structures and the human beings I’ve had the pleasure of coming across who call our community home. I shared details on the myriad of programs and supportive services available to assist residents with their education, career and life goals. I asked her thoughts on partnerships with her organization and the potential for transformative community impact. Her opinion can be absolutely be what she sees, and is valid, but that conversation opened her thought process to the concept that it can also be so much more.
My practical and factual knowledge informed and expanded her opinion. Discourse is an often-used buzzword, but underutilized in practice. It would have been easy to share my thoughts on the internet and her responses could have been the low-hanging fruit that social media battles are often built upon. Alas, we just talked. What is lost in translation on our favorite platforms can sometimes never be recovered in relationships, but when we proceed to understand and share our opinions with good intentions, oh the bridges we can build.
I am not the Patron Saint of Social Media Civility. I have a feeling, that title will be reserved for Martha Stewart and her smooth clap backs.
I too have fallen deep down into the rabbit hole of Facebook duels that leave my thumbs sore and my blood pressure high for hours after I’ve logged off. I have gone medium (at best) when I should have gone high and had the likes to prove it. I’ve even enjoyed the fleeting superiority over my lesser equipped opponents.
But it’s just that — fleeting. It hasn’t gotten me closer to my goals. That approach hasn’t ALWAYS lined up with my value system or reflected the best version of myself.
But it has taught me a very important life lesson. While opinions hold a great deal of value in our lives there are far greater virtues to attain. Grace, discernment and kindness are at the top of the heap. While that content may not serve to enhance your influencer status, it just might work to enrich you in real life.
I encourage you to test this theory and form your own opinion. Log off for a while, sit on your porch and chat with passersby. If what you gain is not greater than what you’ve missed scrolling and liking, let me know and I’ll be sure to like share and comment below.