I've been doing a lot of soul-searching throughout the year so far and have made a lot of minor but important changes in my mindset and actions for the sake of my health--both mental and physical (which are often linked way more than you'd expect).
The one thing I've struggled a lot with for as long as I can remember is accepting that sometimes, you just can't change a person's mind.
This is hard for me, not because I always think I'm right, but because I'm the type of person who constantly wants to learn and grow and change.
Seriously, if there's ever a point in my life where I stop listening to new information and get stuck in my way of thinking, please just take me out behind the shed because I'm as good as dead at that point.
Stagnation is the worst feeling.
So I just don't get it when people don't think that way. I don't want everyone in the world to think like me. That would be boring. But I do wish more people cared about expanding their mind, engaging in real, meaningful dialogue, and being open to new information.
Too many fights have started with people I know and care about because of this. Because I'm not the kind of person who just sees someone share an image of the president on Facebook with some random statistic without fact-checking that first. It doesn't matter if the information is positive or negative. Not even when we had a president I liked.
It's important to be critical of any information you're presented with. It's important to realize that just because it aligns with beliefs you already hold, that doesn't necessarily mean it's accurate.
I know in the past I've spouted off a lot of incorrect statistics or "facts" without having a basis for my knowledge other than seeing it often enough that I took it as truth. And I hate the feeling of being proven wrong. But at the same time, I love the feeling because it's part of learning, growing, and not repeating the same mistakes over and over again.
And this doesn't have to be political in nature. It can be about anything. Being a skeptic doesn't mean you have to be pessimistic about everything, just that you should question the information before you imprint it in your brain.
A couple of years ago, The Oatmeal shared a comic strip on the backfire effect. I highly recommend you read through it because it'll blow your mind, but for a brief summary, the backfire effect is the notion that some people (most people, even) can have such strongly-held beliefs that even when they are presented with the most solid, provable evidence that challenges their beliefs in some way, they'll only cling to their beliefs harder.
Ever since I read that, I have made it a mission to really challenge my own beliefs. Partly because I'm a rebel who doesn't want to be lumped in with the majority of people, but mostly because of what I stated earlier in this article; I'm a learner, and I want nothing more than to learn and grow. That is more important to me than any belief I hold.
Circling back, because I struggle with people not wanting to learn and grow in the same way I do, I have engaged in far too many fights that can never be won. It doesn't mean the person I'm fighting with is stupid or crazy or willfully ignorant. It's simply a result of them being a victim of this backfire effect.
It doesn't matter how much evidence I show, it doesn't matter what proof I have, it doesn't matter how many different sources my argument is backed by, some people simply refuse to accept a different viewpoint. They'll mock my sources, if they even bother reading them at all. They'll insist all my information comes from a biased source, even if the sources I provide come from the full spectrum of viewpoints. They'll cite an opinion article of someone they look to for information, no matter how big a lunatic that person actually is. They'll go as far as to say my "liberal college education" has me brainwashed. They'll try to make me feel like an education is something to be ashamed of.
I just can't do it anymore.
I bring it on myself, is the sad part. I'm active on social media and I express my opinions openly. And unfortunately, some people won't bother to comment on my cute dog posts or my funny memes; they'll wait until I post my perhaps weekly input on a usually political subject and attack.
At the end of the day, I feel sorry for them. I never come from a place of malice or belittling. I've been accused of such, but the accusation usually reads something like, "You act like you're better than everyone because you are hellbent on verifying every piece of information."
First of all, I don't think I'm better than anyone. And I never, ever belittle someone I'm trying to engage in discourse with. I never attack them or their personality or their character. I attack their argument.
Second, am I supposed to be insulted by that? That I care about whether the information I'm getting is true? Because I'm not.
So, I can't promise I'll never defend my argument again because that's not a promise I can keep, but when the typical person who comes loaded with Alex Jones references in their unsubstantiated argument, I'm fully ready to just ignore them and not engage. They aren't there to actually hear me anyway.