Why do our words no longer carry weight? Why, with the wealth of knowledge so easily accessible to us, have we become shallow and meaningless in our opinions and assumptions?
I have come to believe that the answer lies in the way we form opinions. So many of us don't take the time to conduct thoughtful inquiry, and as a consequence, we have lost our credibility.
As human beings, we naturally like to avoid discomfort and conflict. However, our natural inclinations can actually serve to hurt instead of help us. Have you ever noticed how when we come hear an opinion we perceive to be wrong, we automatically shut down (and if we do still listen, it's only to mentally identify certain points that we are offended by)? Then, as soon as we get a chance, we run to a friend with the same view as us and vent about how "wrong" the other person is. I think we all have been guilty of this, and I will take a guess and say that this is probably how the majority of humans respond to differing opinions most of the time. We simply don't like to confront. However, this is entirely problematic; we are only further confirming our own bias and growing the divide between different ideals. Wouldn't the actual progressive and change-inducing course of action be to initiate an honest and respectful conversation with the other person?
It's interesting how we are so unable to understand other people. The same disgust and/or fear you feel towards another opinion is very likely to be shared by the other person towards your own opinion. Their feelings are just as real as yours, but our own egocentrism disallows us from recognizing that. In reality, they probably have some really interesting points for you to consider, or at the very least to help you understand better why it is they think the way they do. If they have such a strongly held belief, they most likely have a reason behind it. Conversation, then, should serve to reveal their strategic reasoning. Hmm... maybe this is the reason why we actually shy away from conversation. Maybe, we know that it would actually expose the fact that we are unable to back up our claims and have blindly pledged allegiance to our side.
Far too often, we accept what we see just because it goes along with our personally held beliefs, is given from someone in authority, or because of a personal experience that goes in accordance with it. The first case is a classic example of confirmation bias. When we believe something, we naturally surround ourselves with similar-minded people and only absorb information that provides evidence for our point. The second case refers to blind allegiance. Authority figures have more power than we realize in our subconscious, and at the same time, authority figures have historically been a source of dangerously wrong information and have abused their power. The third case is particularly strong in our lives because personal experiences can have profound and lasting effects on us, making a "truth" seem completely concrete. However, what we sometimes fail to consider is that for every general finding, there are deviations from the mean. One example of deviation in the form of a personal experience is not enough evidence to disprove a theory. Clearly, these three reasons are flawed and are likely to lead to misinformation being spread like wildfire.
In short, we need to check our "knowledge." First, is your claim actually true? Fact check, ya'll. Is there substantial evidence in favor of your point? Secondly, does the information you are propagating actually align with your beliefs, and have you actually taken the time to think about that? Blind allegiance is all too real. Thirdly, does your belief in the "knowledge" have justification? There are some people who are way more confident than they deserve to be, and overconfidence can be dangerous. While cues from authority figures in our lives and our own intuition about an issue can be a good place to start, in order to truly formulate an educated and respectable opinion, it has to be justified through logical and credible research. Then, and only then, do we have the right to unshakeable confidence.
Where is our desire to have immense meaning and power in our words? Don't we want to have the kind of confidence in our beliefs that commands respect? Having an opinion is a responsibility, and so is having confidence! If we firmly believe something, we are obligated to be able to explain why. Let us become people who recognize this, subsequently do the work to substantiate our cause, and altogether have words that have incredible weight to them.
We also need to remember that "I don't know" is a perfectly reasonable and responsible answer to a question on a topic on which you do not have the authority to give a solid conclusion. However, that then comes with the responsibility of finding out the answer.
So do your research. Become highly knowledgable and confident, and then go initiate a conversation!