I'm not surprising anyone when I say 2016 has been a divisive year. It's not just presidential campaigns. We have Black lives versus blue lives. We have refugee crises. We have Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift teeing off.
A lot of this drama plays out on social media: Facebook posts, Instagram memes, and Twitter rants. I can't even say I'm innocent of the last - I retweet a lot of politically fueled commentary. And today's blog post is not about not posting your opinion. In fact I encourage it. I think we should share our opinions more - if they're backed up with facts and not assumptions.
But really, I want to say, we should share our opinions, and we should stop defriending people for it. How often do you see someone post something political and write, "Unfriend me if you disagree"? Or I have other friends who tell me they de-friend those who say something not in line with their worldview.
If the content being posted is a trigger, then you should take the steps to remove yourself from that situation. I don't want anyone being triggered. But a lot of us can see content without being triggered. We might be upset, we might disagree (a whole lot), but we aren't in danger of hurting ourselves or other adverse outcomes (other than anger and confusion that our friend could think that way).
We, as a generation, need to stop de-friending people for their opinion.
We need to encourage dialogue. We need to be aware of others' views. We risk becoming more polarized as a society if we isolate ourselves in vacuums of like minds. Just because someone supports a candidate you disagree with does not mean they are the worst or are evil or some other superlative. For all you know, they have not heard the facts you have heard. They might be supporting a candidate out of obliviousness. Or, imagine, their priorities are different than yours.
Social issues and economic policies are big examples here. It is easy to write off people who prioritize fiscal responsibility over human rights, and I'm not saying we shouldn't feel certain ways, but it doesn't mean the other person actually doesn't support those rights. It could be an issue of which problem they think is more urgent to solve and/or introducing them to why those rights should matter. Blaming racism/misogyny won't change their mind or make them go away. You have to get around those terms to adjust their outlook.
Additionally, if you de-friend the person you disagree with, there is no longer a chance they will be exposed to your own (opposing) views. And if they are not exposed to opposing views, then there is no chance they might change their views.
Befriending dissenters (or remaining friends with dissenters) is beneficial to both parties. Dissenters may shift their views if you explain where you're coming from, or at least the dissenters may remember they have friends (who are hopefully rational and decent humans) that do think differently and they're not altogether crazy. On the flip side, remaining friends with those we disagree with serves as a reminder that not everyone agrees with us. We must anticipate objections. The world is not perfect. We must continually strive for ideals. It keeps us on our toes.
We become friends with people usually because we share something in common. We like something about that person. Finding out their opinion is different than ours is childish grounds for terminating a friendship. Have a conversation. Remember that you liked this person. You can disagree with their overall conclusion, but they may have valid concerns.
In the end, it's about working toward the perfect world. We have to work together. We aren't going to get there if we refuse to work with one half of the world (or some smaller fraction). We must find out why someone thinks a certain way to change their mind.
So next time someone posts a Trump video or a Clinton meme, don't block them. Ask why they think that way. (And I warn you, it might take several iterations before sweeping generalizations and pervasive stereotypes are pulled back for rational discussion.) Or just don't do anything. Let it stay there as a reminder that there are people with different outlooks than yours.
Okay, I'll step off my soapbox now.
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