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Social Media: Opinions - Everybody Has One

Updated on June 30, 2014

They say (whoever “they” are) that opinions are like assholes; everybody has one. It’s true, as the photo here shows us. Just because it isn't visible it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So yeah, everybody does have an opinion. Some just have the ability to express it better than others.

I occasionally run into someone that has skated through life not knowing how they really feel about anything and honestly, I pity them. That’s a subject for another day though. For today, I just want to talk about our right to form and express our opinions and, how to respect someone else's right to do the same.

First of all, we need to get real. It’s not a perfect world. Very few issues that concern us are totally black and white. That’s right – admit it. There is this a little gray area somewhere in between opposite opinions where common ground can be found. Sure, the world would be a happier place if we could all just meet in the gray space, but we all know that’s not going to happen. So how do we end the needless arguing that happens when opposite opinions collide?

It’s all about respect.

Respect, it’s a small word isn’t it? Only seven characters in length, but when understood and applied, it can build bridges, end wars, and form the foundation of lasting relationships. Aretha Franklin sang about it, didn’t she? Yeah, Aretha turned “respect” into “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”.

So, let's talk about it.

Some say that respect has to be earned. Others think everyone deserves respect until they prove themselves unworthy. Eureka! We have a difference of opinion.

I can see you’ve already formed your opinion. That’s right, own it. In only two short sentences, you made up your mind that one sentence was wrong and one was right. Of course the one that most closely fit your own opinion was the right one. Admit it, no one is watching.

It's an important conversation.

Let’s take one more step into the danger zone of opposite opinions. Let's do an expermiment.

Imagine that you are sitting face to face in an empty roomwith someone you have never met. There is no one else in the room and you’ve both been given a card. Your card reads “Respect must be earned.” because that’s your opinion. The card given to the other person in the room reads “You deserve my respect until you prove you are unworthy.” because that statement represents their opinion. Clearly you have opposing opinions about respect.

  • You believe that respect must be earned.
  • The stranger believes respect is granted automatically until it is abused.

The room is perfectly quiet, giving you time to think about your opinion. Your posture stiffens and your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Your heart races as you prepare to defend your opinion.

The clock is ticking and you can cut the tension with a knife. Be patient, we're almost finished. You didn’t think it would be that easy, did you?

Now ,you and the stranger are going to exchange cards. Go ahead, look at your new card. Think about the words. Your new card reads “You deserve my respect until you prove you are unworthy.” The room is still quiet and you have nothing to do but look at the stranger sitting across from you and read the card in your hand. What has that stranger done to you? Be honest. They’ve done nothing because you’ve never exchanged a word with them. You can’t use that as an excuse to not respect them.

Let's change our attitude and get a fresh perspective.

Now, throw your judgment out the window. It’s not going to work in this setting. Look at the stranger. You are the same age, the same size, the same race, and you are dressed exactly alike. You can’t use any of those as an excuse. Now, read the card again.

“You deserve my respect until you prove yourself unworthy.”

Is it sinking in yet? The simple truth is that when forced to consider an opposing opinion, two strangers met on neutral territory. Without the bias of their own opinion, whatever conflict might have resulted has been diffused. No one had to be right and no one had to be wrong. They were simply asked to consider another opinion.

So yes, we are all entitled to our opinion, but if we respect the right of others to hold an opposing one, just think what we can accomplish.

Get the CD from Amazon

Take a little break.

You can relax now. We aren’t going to do any more experiments. I think we’ve proved my point. Let's enjoy a little music.

Go ahead. Shake the stress out of our shoulders, take a few deep breaths, and then we'll get down to my point and wrap this up.

There is a reason for all this.

Over the years I’ve been interested in a lot of things which lends me to having a lot of opinions. I’m eager to express them and equally eager to defend them. I do respect your right to have an opposing opinion and most of the time I will consider that you might be right. You’ll have to prove it though.

Many of my friends have strong opinions too, and we don’t always agree. Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree. It doesn’t affect our friendship. My friends are scattered all over the world and come from many cultures, classes, religions, etc. I love them all for their varied attitudes and experiences. I’ve learned from them and hope they’ve learned at least a little from me. Like me, most of my friends want to make a difference in the world. We have some shared interests and some that aren’t, but we support each other in any way we can. Now that we are living in a digital world, my friends from different places sometimes collide on social media. Sometimes it’s a little fender-bender and sometimes it’s like a train wreck. It’s still a collision.

It happened again today. Two friends with a shared interest, but a difference of opinion collided. Rather than respect each other’s right to be an asshole, they both set out to prove it. Me? I sat back and watched, wondering if respect would intervene. For a moment, I had hope. But then, the battle of who is going to have the last word erupted. I quit reading. Someone once told me that to argue with a fool is to become one. They also told me that it was better to be thought a fool than to prove it. Both of my friends were proving themselves to be fools on my social media page. The saddest thing of all is that they really were arguing for the same cause.

What is social media feeding us?

Most of us who have been networking for any length of time have acquired hundreds of friends on our social media networks. We are passionate about the things we believe in and we share information on our profiles because we want to make a difference I wonder though, how many of us stop long enough to think about the friends who will read our posts. Do we consider those that might feel differently than we do? Are our posts written with respect for those that might not care or, agree?

It’s easy to sit behind a screen and insult someone we don’t know. We aren’t invested in the relationship and the chance of us ever meeting face to face is small. Oh yeah, that does make it easy, doesn’t it? We can trade insults. Sure we can. We can make ourselves feel bigger than life and, look smaller than a flea. Just keep in mind that although a flea can get the dog’s attention nothing good comes to the dog from scratching. It might feel good for a moment, but the fleas don’t go away.

We are a digital generation now. Social media supplies our need but all too often I think we're eating the junk and leaving the veggies on our plate.

And the lesson is...

You know me; I’m always looking for the lesson. The events of today reminded me that there is plenty of room for all of us on this planet. There is plenty of work to be done and too few people willing to do it. Social media is both our tool and our toy box. It’s a place we go to play with old friends and family and it’s our bulletin board for sharing resources. The key to using it successfully is to respect each other and treat each other with respect.

Each of us is a unique being. We have a purpose for being here and every experience in our life has helped to shape our opinions and fuel our passion. Yours may be different from mine, but hey are no less important. I will respect you and your choices until your prove yourself unworthy of my respect but I will always respect your right to form your own opinion. Do you remember the experiment? Sometimes it just takes a different view to find that common ground. And that, for what it's worth, is my opinion.


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