As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more outspoken and less concerned with what others think of me. I’m more likely to share my thoughts and opinions on things; politics, current events, the economy, etc. without seeking approval from others. It’s a freeing feeling that many of us achieve around the age of 40. Some call it having no filter..
In fact, I’ve always found it refreshing to be around people who aren’t afraid to speak their mind. Listening to differing points of view is a good way to stretch our minds and challenge our own beliefs. I also believe that lively, intelligent discussion can help us solve problems and find solutions that we might not see if we only looked at things from one perspective.
And yet with the chaotic state of the world; Covid and its impact on health and the economy, political unrest, protests over constitutional rights, protests against racism sparked by the death of George Floyd, protests against police, and the general sense of fear that this has all brought, I’ve noticed an over-arching decline in tolerance for differing opinions. I suppose this shouldn’t be a surprise. In times of stress, people tend to hold tightly to their beliefs and things that make them feel safe.
People are on edge. Scared. Defensive. Hurt. People are shaming and name-calling friends who don’t share their beliefs or react to events the way they do. There is little latitude for differing opinions and there seems to be no “benefit of the doubt” given. It’s as if we’ve all collectively developed very thin skin while at the same time become very adept at verbal and written attacks.
Social media has magnified this exponentially. I used to find it interesting to read comments or participate in lively Facebook discussions. Now in this current environment of anger and frustration, I’ve decided to tread lightly, to pivot to safe, uplifting posts of puppies and flowers, or as friend concluded, “let’s just pretend we are at a polite garden party.” And she has a point. Sometimes our sanity requires we just smile politely.
After all, no one wins an argument on Facebook. Most discussions are better had in person, where we can see the human being behind the words and it’s not so tempting to lash out through the safety of our keyboards.
It’s also important to give people the benefit of the doubt and remind ourselves that most people have good intentions. There is a lot of information out there. Some is accurate, some is not. We are all trying to figure this out together.
We are all scared. This is unchartered territory and bullying doesn’t change minds, but listening and respecting other’s opinions just might.
Hopefully, we can soon return to a time where differing opinions and respectful discussion will lead to solutions and a better world for all. Until then, let’s all remember the golden rule – and tread lightly – we are all human.