Why Our Current Expressions Of Our Opinions Is Bad For Us
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Politics and Activism

Why Our Current Expressions Of Our Opinions Is Bad For Us

Part two of a three part article series discussing why diverse opinions are tearing us apart when they should be bringing us together.

Why Our Current Expressions Of Our Opinions Is Bad For Us
Isabella Hotz

We can’t scroll through any social media platform anymore without being exposed to whatever controversial concept is being talked about at that moment. For many people, it’s just an irritating nuisance, and for others (admittedly including myself), it’s a lure into a battlefield.

We’re currently seeing a constant battle represented by tags such as #LiberalismIsAMentalDisorder, #NoRacistsAllowed, #FactsDontCareAboutYourFeelings, etc... which are meant to attack anyone that fits an assumed ideology as if these tags actually were significant or accurate. It seems that everyone is losing sight of the actual goal we all share… to find the truth.

I questioned why we’re so divided, why we’re having such a hard time being decent to each other, why we say the things we do, why we develop opinions and evidence for those opinions the way we do, and how we can find the real truth out of all of this chaos. My interest in how we interact with our opinions was initially triggered by my own mistakes and regrets I’ve gained in my experience taking part in online debates. I’ve had good and bad experiences in discussing controversial topics with others, but I’ve recently been having more bad instances than good.

In this three part article series, I hope to find a resolution to the problem that I share with a lot of other educated and opinionated individuals. My goal is to do this through three parts: I. the value of an opinion, II. why the current expression of opinions is bad for us, and III. how we should be expressing our opinions.

Part II: Why The Current Expression Of Opinions Is Bad For Our Health

Social media is a fairly new platform in which we use to stay connected to the world. While it is a great tool for staying updated with people we know, it is incredibly addicting and can act as a means of the impression on some of the most impressionable individuals (teens) which are its primary users. We might not acknowledge it, but social media can serve as the perfect platform to negatively alter the way we think and function in society.

Via social media, any kind of information can be slanted, sent out as ‘news’, and interpreted, even on the subliminal level, as factual or correct. Just by scrolling through our feed, we are exposed to breaking news headlines, opinionated tweets, and other controversial current events. A lot of these posts are negative and exploit horrible occurrences or a single side of a debatable topic; and while it’s good to be informed, it can be harmful to be constantly exposed to inaccurate reports and traumatizing events from around the world.

From social media posts, we then see how others react to topics, what the majority thinks about that topic, and how that topic ‘should’ be handled. We want to do what others do and we want to be on the morally just side. For example, if people on Twitter are suggesting that a movement against something that might not even pose an actual threat to anyone is necessary, others might start that movement regardless of its true necessity just to feel as though they’re doing the right or the ‘moral’ thing.

Social media provides a limitless outlet through which we can also express opinions, commonly regarding social issues. However, with this, it also makes us more vulnerable to criticism from those that don’t agree with us. We don’t like being told we’re wrong, and we don’t like criticism especially considering that all of our opinions are emotionally based and represent our personal philosophies.

Given the immediate and universal availability of social media as well as our emotional attachments to what we share on social media, it is incredibly easy to get swept into aggressive, destructive arguments with people we might not even know. We are exposed to so much information that is poorly regulated, and we are therefore exposed to the even less regulated comments regarding that information.

Almost always, the comment sections will consist of opinions form aggressive, uneducated, immature, and passionate individuals which can easily be replied to by an equally aggressive, uneducated, immature, or passionate individual. Clearly, this can create a hostile and circular situation even for those spectating. This hostility and aggression in addition to the emotional attachments we form regarding the concept can induce extreme stress responses.

It’s well known in the psychological community that continuous stress makes individuals much more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and other psychological and physiological abnormalities. This may explain why the prolonged use of a mobile or computer device is linked to higher rates of anxiety and depression (that is depending on the intention). This may be a correlative relationship, but it is significant enough to acknowledge especially when we spend almost two hours of our day on social media.

In his Ted Talk, Dr. Cal Newport accredited a lot of his own success and happiness to his lack of having social media accounts. He asserts that social media serves primarily as a form of entertainment and less as a fundamental tool. Dr. Newport also references the developers of such entertainment forms that seek ways to make the site as addictive as possible. A study is also cited in his talk suggesting that the more we break apart our attention from what we’re doing to check our phones, the harder it is for us to concentrate on other, more important, activities.

Of course, debating opinions isn’t the only stressful aspect of social media, however, I think it is important to at least pay attention to our moods and cognitions after scrolling through our feed. We should also be concerned with the open availability and lack of regulation or guideline reinforcement within social networking platforms. Many times, the conversation about contrasting opinions leads to harassment and abusive statements.

I know for a fact that individuals from both sides of the political spectrum especially are guilty of harassment, generalization, and abusive responses to others. It's not uncommon to see hypocrisy among the ‘tolerant left’ individuals commenting on conservative posts in an incredibly intolerant manner as well as 'fact-based' conservative individuals emotionally complaining about others.

For example, one liberal based Twitter page had commented that Tomi Lahren should not be using her mouth to speak, but to suck that user’s d*ck. I personally found that response incredibly revolting and a perfect example as to one of the reasons why I will not consider myself a liberal individual.

On the opposing end, we also see hypocrisy from the conservative sides. For example, Tomi Lahren uses her Twitter page to promote her Fox News segment in which she complains excessively through name calling and inaccurate accusations about liberal emotional sensitivity. Yet she herself has made a career out of emotionally yelling at people not doing what she likes.

Clearly, some users on both sides of the political spectrum should be more considerate of the material that they post via social media. What’s harming for spectators is having to be exposed to that kind of behavior and either responding to it or believing that such behavior is socially acceptable. Of course, Tomi Lahren’s account isn’t the only place in which intense and destructive arguing can occur. We see this shit everywhere.

Another notable example is in Snapchat’s new (horrible) update. Not only are my friends’ stories messed up beyond me wanting to go through the effort to view them, but news networks and private sites are flooding the Discover section. After the Parkland Shooting, I had become so overwhelmed and unhealthy in my interactions on social media that I deleted all but one of the social networking apps on my phone. My Snapchat app was not updated yet, so I saw no threat in using it to stay connected to my friends. Of course, after the update, it had become just as anxiety-inducing as my Twitter. I now constantly find myself clicking on Discover stories to “see less like this” on my app. Unfortunately, this hasn’t resolved my conflict.

My ending point is that we shouldn’t be excessively using our social media apps to banter about social issues or opinions, and we shouldn't be allowing social media platforms to exploit such aggressive behavior regarding social issues especially. Not only are our social networking sites harmful to our mental health, but they also serve as a dangerous environment in which we can easily become entangled in anxiety-inducing interactions. These interactions, including simple observation of others, only puts us more at risk for psychological distress and only reminds us of how broken our world has become. In such an accessible and lawless environment, it’s important that we proceed with caution and awareness.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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