Sharing Opinions in an Age of Outrage

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Have you noticed the tendency for an increasing number of us to become outraged if someone dares say or write something we don’t agree with?

Maybe I’m more attuned to it, but it seems as though every possible scenario provides an opportunity for people to get worked up. And we don’t just get worked up nowadays – a large number of us express our disagreement (and yes, sometimes outrage) with an increasingly large audience, thanks to the ability to share our views through social media.

There are lots of theories about why – the need to belong and the ability to do so through online communities, the need to feel important in a world where opinions and views are everywhere (and yes, we can all have a media presence, even me with this small blog of mine), and just the ease of expressing our thoughts.

When to share your opinion and when to stay quiet? That is the question … 

Sometimes we don’t always stop and think before we say. I know I don’t. I can jump to conclusions – information comes in, facts are not always sought before judgement is made. Often it’s my family and my colleagues who are the beneficiaries of my rants, but not always.

At the same time, there are issues that matter, and they need to be spoken about. They need commentary. And views that are cruel, or damaging, or thoughtless, should be called out. Plus, sometimes, diversity of opinion is just good to share, because it adds to the rich tapestry of what it means to be part of a broader community – it can add to our  to the understanding of what is important to other people and create a greater awareness.

 

My current thinking about WHEN to speak out 

I am trying to be more tempered in what I comment on and how I comment. Not that I’m setting myself up as a role model, because I am still trying to work out the balance. So – three different scenarios and three difference responses. Did I get them right? I don’t know – what do you think?

1. When it’s a topic you know something about, feel strongly about, and it’s an issue that impacts others?

Yes. So I responded to a self righteous article on housing affordability last week. Of course, I picked a #trendingtopic #avogate so my comments possibly got lost, but I may have made some level of contribution. Importantly, I took a stand on something I feel strongly about.

2. When it’s an important issue but you don’t know enough? 

For instance, I read with interest Lionel Shriver’s speech at the Brisbane Writers Festival this year about cultural appropriation (by which she means writing or acting in other voices / other genders / other races, etc – and sees it as a means of trying to understand the other) and the reaction to it (see two opposing views here and here).

I don’t know what I think about this topic. I feel uncomfortable with the issue – I can imagine (and think I’ve seen it) done sensitively and I’ve also seen it done very offensively, and I don’t know always know where the line sits. So I’ve limited my discussions in a more private setting, to help tease out the issues a bit more…

3. When it’s personal preference? 

This week there has been some to-ing and fro-ing about the rights to have and express opinions in the blogging world. And in this context, I’ve tried (not always successfully) to limit sharing my thoughts to the rights to express views, rather than the views themselves. Because I have my own preferences in who I read and follow, I have my own thoughts (which could be influenced by a whole range of factors, not always fair ones), and to be honest, I haven’t read enough of one of the bloggers in question. And so I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of this (although, so it’s not unnecessarily cryptic, you can read this article if you want to know more).

What I am interested in, and supportive of, is the right of people to express their views, thoughtfully, and not to be attacked verbally for it (and that goes for both sides). And that’s the extent my involvement (at least, I hope I’ve limited it to that).

 

How do you know when and how?

I think everyone has to form their own views. I know – often, but not always – what I think is important, but it will differ for everyone. Plus, issues are rarely so simplistically right or wrong, important or irrelevant. Life is usually more complicated than that – which can be annoying because we are also rushing a lot more and many of us want to jump to conclusions before thinking about the matter first. But it’s true.

So – how do you know?

I don’t think I can say anything better than what John Pavlovitz wrote in this post I stumbled across titled ‘The Golden Age of Social Media OutrageHave a read of the prompts within it. I think they’re good prompts anyway, but, of course, that’s just my opinion! Link here.

And of course – be respectful. You might not have all the facts, of course, or understand the perspective of the other people involved. Be open minded. But be involved.

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Finally

Yes, I never write a short post! But this is a topic that has been running around in my head. And as much as I think it’s important to be careful how to engage, I think it’s worse when we can’t engage and debate over issues that are important – and often complex.
As I said, I’ve been a public servant (in different levels of government) most of my working life. And I am absolutely appalled at the actions of our federal government.  Yesterday Justin Gleeson QC, the Solicitor General resigned due a series of ‘attack(s) and insinuation(s) made in recent times upon me personally, or upon my office, by government members of parliament, including you (Attorney General George Brandis), in Senate committee processes source.

There is a pattern of shutting down dissenting views within this government. And honest, and challenging, views, are important when they involve important issue. So this action last night reiterated to me the importance of being open to different views. To me, no discussion is far worse than risking too much, and the potential for outrage in the process.

The risk of disagreements, and outrage, is awful. But worse is when the options to share opinions are shut down. Opinions matter. People’s views matter. It’s important to be able to keep sharing these (maybe with a little more thought, and a little less outrage.). But keep sharing. 

 

What do you think?

If you want to read more on this topic, look for the hashtag #idratherbeme 

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4 thoughts on “Sharing Opinions in an Age of Outrage

  1. It’s quite interesting how the person with the loudest voice/biggest following can squelch discussion and dissenting opinions so easily. Disturbing to see that played out in the public sector. I hope we’ve all learned some lessons about being respectful in our discourse this week.

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    1. I hope so too (there’s still a lot to sort out in the public sector, sadly – but hopefully in the blogging sphere, things will settle down)

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  2. I absolutely agree that discussion is more powerful than no discussion at all. We need to be discussing, challenging, teasing apart the information presented to us. We fail ourselves and each other if only the loudest voices are allowed to be heard, silencing all others.

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