You don’t need me to tell you the past two and a half years have been a doozy. Pandemic, political division, parental burnout – we’ve experienced it all. On top of all the many issues we are navigating, there is also the pressure to post your opinion on social media. I have been called out before because I didn’t post about a specific topic. I was accused of “not taking a stand.” As if throwing my opinion on my Facebook wall is the only way to take a stand.
Maybe every issue doesn’t require me to take a stand. What happened to taking your time to process and consider both sides before posting your two cents? While there are certainly issues I have strong opinions about, there are just as many that I find particularly thorny.
I love this quote by Adam Grant:
Not having an opinion is not a sign or ignorance or indifference. It’s often a mark of an open mind. The more complex and consequential the issue, the more critical thinking depends on suspending judgement. A key to learning is gathering information without forming a conclusion.
I will take his thought even further and say that oftentimes if you don’t post your opinion on social media you can be considered indifferent on an issue. Can we all agree this is not true? Can we all agree that sometimes firing off a post before considering all sides or fully forming your opinion is not helpful? Some of us just need more time to sit with the information. It may look like from the outside they aren’t engaged, but instead of assuming the worst – that they don’t care – let’s give people the benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand, there are topics I am passionate about and do feel the need to “take a stand on.” I support them through financial giving and volunteer hours, but I still may choose not to broadcast them on social media.
I live in a politically diverse area which I’m thankful for, but I’m also aware of our political climate. I will admit that I have wrongly assumed in the past that I know someone’s stance on every political issue based on one opinion they have shared on social media. It’s human nature to generalize and try to have people fit nicely into two groups, but in reality, that’s not how it works.
While I’m not ashamed of my politics, I recognize that if I post my opinion on every topic, I could dissuade a neighbor to talk to me about these issues. Here’s the thing about having real-life conversations – we could actually learn something new from each other! And, just maybe, we could even find some common ground! But even if that doesn’t happen, having conversations with people who have different opinions than you can humanize the “other side” that so many people seem hesitant to engage with. I have found, in my personal life, these conversations are more easily had if my neighbor isn’t coming to the table with preconceived notions about my opinions based on my social media posts.
There are also people who just don’t like the confrontation of posting an opinion on social media. I’ve seen posts devolve into arguments, and not necessarily intelligent ones, between a seventh grade classmate you haven’t seen in 30 years and a great aunt who lives out of state. People who don’t know each other at all and have no idea of the other’s life experiences which shaped their opinions. Moderating that discussion can be tough – especially if you aren’t someone who enjoys debating.
The pressure to respond to every news event or political debate is something a lot of us feel, but if you notice someone not posting on a major topic just remember that they could be still forming their opinion, creating a space where others can engage them in conversation, or simply don’t want the drama on their Facebook wall.