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I have an opinion about that

Since the dawn of time, people have had opinions on everything from politics to the best way to make fire to whether a club or spear is better for hunting the wooly mammoth.

Since the dawn of time, people have had opinions on everything from politics to the best way to make fire to whether a club or spear is better for hunting the wooly mammoth.

Mostly politics.

While people have always had opinions, they weren’t inclined to share them with just anyone or everyone. Uncle Jim and Grandma Betty may have wrestled (loudly) with various issues over Sunday dinner, but in general people reserved their opinions for friends and family. A person wouldn’t shout their political inclinations from a rooftop or take out a billboard proclaiming viewpoints differing from theirs were dumber than a wooly mammoth and embraced only by idiots.

Going public with negativity like that would be out of line. It wouldn’t be prudent. Or nice.

Times change. While people continue to form opinions, they aren’t afraid to share. But not face to face over Sunday dinner. That sort of thing is nearly extinct. People who might not get in your face with their political (or other) rants in person are more than glad to do so online.

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Social media. I love it. It’s a great way to stay in touch and know who’s on vacation when and where. But it’s also become a place to share one’s opinion on parenting, prayer, politics, health care, the Kardashians, the economy and terrorists. Most especially the Kardashians. And politics. Some things never change.

If you read a through a thread or two, you’ll note hardly anyone articulates middle of the road, milk toast opinions. Most people express strong thoughts for or against whatever it is they’re taking issue with, and they don’t hesitate to voice them - as long as it can be done from behind the screen of a smartphone, tablet or computer. I’ve witnessed more thrashing, trashing and bashing in the last year than probably the rest of my cumulative life, and I was born before the Internet was invented, so that’s a long time.

Spouting one’s opinions while name-calling and indulging in a profanity or two is no longer seen as out of line or rash. It’s run of the mill and it’s caused me to form an opinion of my own.

The Internet is making us mean.

I’m not alone in my thinking. *One research study found that social network use momentarily enhances self-esteem (“I got 64 likes in half an hour! I’m trending!”), which reduces self-control, making us more likely to lash out strongly toward people who don’t share our opinions. One of the researchers said this reduction in self-control is similar to behavior displayed by people who are inebriated. Imagine the result if someone who was actually tipsy decided to explore social media. The lashing out effect could be multiplied.

It’s a good thing no one goes on Facebook after drinking a couple cocktails.

What’s the takeaway? All those Facebook Likes are making us act drunk and mean, not to mention faceless, which is ironic. (But that’s just my opinion.)

We all possess ideas, perspectives, beliefs, viewpoints and opinions. That won’t change. And it’s safe and logical to say we all believe our opinion to be the astute, intelligent and correct one. That’s OK.

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Disrespecting others is not. It has, however, become the norm - or at the very least commonplace.

Call me naïve or behind the times or even a wooly mammoth, but that makes me sad. Because in addition to opinions, we all have feelings. And words - whether spoken or on a screen - can hurt. If you were here, I’d tell you that to your face and we could talk about it, the old-fashioned way, maybe even over Sunday dinner.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

 

*Wilcox, K. and Stephen A.T. Are Close Friends the Enemy? Online Social Networks, Self-Esteem, and Self-Control Journal of Consumer Research(2013)

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