I have suddenly become remarkably opinionated. I think this is partially due to my newly found time to read the news and browse twitter. But, in the past, no matter how much news I read, I didn’t comment. Now I’m posting all over twitter and facebook. What happened?
I stopped being scared of conflict.
Now I know that sounds a little weird, but I was truly afraid of disagreeing with people. It made my job in program management difficult. A large portion of my job was to advocate on behalf of my customers. It was so hard. One time, my boss sat in on a call with me. He remained silent but waved emphatically at me when he thought I needed to jump in and defend the customer. I wouldn’t have spoken without his presence there to embolden me.
So, yeah, the fear was irrational. Most are. Sometimes I imagine fears are parts of our lost childhood selves that haven’t had a chance to grow up. Like like encapsulated Peter Pans..but holding fears that can still bring us to our knees as adults.
It’s taken me some time to accept my fear of conflict and move past it. But doing so has opened up a whole new world for me. I now think that my opinion is worth sharing. I’ve spent a lot of time honing my critical thinking skills, and I like adding something new to the conversation.
Now that I’m paying attention, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon. It’s much easier to “like” or “re-tweet” on social media than it is to propose a different perspective. One of my facebook friends posted an interesting article on student activism last Thursday. I ran across it on Sunday night. At that time, the article had 25 “likes” but no comments. Huh? I read the article. Then I read a bunch of other articles on student activism. (Research is still central to my process; I feel a lot more confident posting my opinion with back-up facts. Thank you, science training.) Then I posted a response. I felt that all the articles that I read, the one my friend posted included, were all casting characters instead of analyzing the situation. The student activists were either cast as heroes or villains, depending on the article. It bothered me. The actual situation only warranted a couple lines, but (assumed) descriptions of character traits ran pages? That was my opinion and I shared it.
But, I digress, while writing about my own experiences is a large portion of this blog, I also want to share an opinion. I’d rather call it a theory, but that’s my background and I think it better describes what I say. So, here it is…
I think that the “likes,” “re-tweets” and “shares” in our internet world are part of the polarization of discourse. I think it’s easier to glom onto one extreme opinion and share it than develop your own mind about it. So that’s what is happening. Extreme views are being shared over and over again without differing perspectives being offered. Social media is the perfect medium for different perspectives! Why aren’t we using it? It’s so easy to quote a tweet and offer a different perspective on the same topic. For example, Fiat Physica posted a great article on how physics training teaches you to break down a problem. I agreed, but offered the counter that physics also teaches people to accept uncertainty and ambiguity – the idea that certain things cannot be broken down (like a light is a particle and a wave – no further break down). It was easy to do.
These are my thoughts of the day – 1) I have seen a whole new world open to me once I released my fear of conflict. 2) It’s much easier to agree (or choose the opposite side) than form your own opinion; I’m so glad that I found the courage to do the latter.