You are supposed to have an opinion on everything nowadays.
If there is a hashtag trending on Twitter, where people are raging and showing their utter disappointment in something, you are considered indifferent or apathetic if you do not take an active part in the noise. You see posts akin to “Your silence speaks a lot” that curse you for being quiet.
You aren’t supposed to fall on a grey area. It should either be a concrete “Yes, I support this” or a “No, I do not support it” God forbid, you take a neutral stance. I have seen celebrities feeling burdened by this pressure to make a statement about any issue. At times, I have felt “Thank God, I am not a celebrity“
What if it isn’t apathy or indifference? What if it’s plain fear – of upsetting your friends if you state your true, honest informed opinion?
Social media, unfortunately, isn’t always right. There’s a herd mentality at play most of the times. People go with the flow rather than doing proper research and making an informed opinion. There are people who protest, just for the sake of protesting. You ask them about the issue and they will have no clue about what’s going on.
It is sort of a ripple effect – when you see your friends taking part in it, you want to join in too, and then your friends see you doing it and they take part in it as well. A fear of missing out, or as the new gen would put it – FOMO. Everyone is too busy to do independent research though, so they trust their friends to have done it already.
You are also scared. You might be considered cold or distant if you do not support your friends in this hashtag trend. Even worse, you are not supposed to have an opinion that is different from theirs. “My way or the highway” is the motto. That confusion and fear stops a lot of people from really opening up. It can also make more people jump into the bandwagon, to add to the noise, impulsively without proper research.
There are times you give your 2 cents, supporting your friend’s opinion, because you trust them to be right. And later on, when you read up on the subject, you are utterly dismayed. You realize you shouldn’t have acted impulsively, and that there’s more to the issue than what meets the eye.
This is the bane of living online these days. You will be fired for having an opinion, you will be fired for having a different opinion, and you will also be fired if you do not have an opinion.
This shouldn’t stop us though, from making an informed opinion especially when it comes to sensitive issues. Your opinion will have an impact on your immediate circle – no matter how big or small that circle is. So why not do it right? Critical thinking has become the need of the hour. The facts are there for everyone to see. I do not mean the “facts” displayed on social media – which can be twisted to fit anyone’s agenda. A quick Google and YouTube search will display all the information you need. Go through multiple materials (from credible sources that are based on facts), read/hear from all sides, and you will definitely start seeing and filtering out the biases from your own knowledge base.
Here’s to more informed opinions, and may you never be stopped from making them.
P.S: I came across this old article “The Burden of an Informed Opinion” on LinkedIn. A very interesting (and much needed) take on learned opinions. Do give it a read to understand the necessity of critical thinking.