Making Your Mind Up

At no point in human existence has it been possible to talk to so many people simultaneously.

Once upon a time, if you were lucky, you knew everybody in your street, possibly around a few places in town. If you were smart enough you could go away to study and then, quite possibly, you’d know everybody in your class, and then everybody in the sports team you joined, and maybe the club or two that you’d spend the occasional evenings with.

You wouldn’t know the town (except for the famous people) or the University/College (yet for years afterwards you’d claim to.) In your lifetime you could meet thousands of people, but only the select few would ever be able to claim they interacted with more than a couple of handfuls. Ironically when you died, a funeral became the best measure of actual popularity whilst alive.

Now, millions of people can be your friends. You just have to get lucky, or design make-up, or be the leader of a country. Of course, you don’t know any of these people who follow you. It’s likely that, when all is said and done, you trust and care about fewer people than your ancestors ever did. Only royalty and religion got to be idolised in the old days, people didn’t care about anything else but their own communities.

In fact, I’m pretty confident that although thousands upon thousands of people will claim to know about certain personalities, it’s all a massive one sided fallacy. The truth, as America is digesting over their favourite pop-star son, is often a long way from what is presented. The actual circle of honest confidantes for famous people remains pretty small for a reason.

Welcome to the World where everybody knows better than you what life means.

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In a world where an actress gets to be a princess, anything is possible, after all. This is a space for some however where you have to be either red or blue, right or left, straight or gay.  No shades of colour, just one or the other. Extremists only exist on one side, not on both and blinkers are the must-own fashion accessory nobody admits they wear.

We may have LGBTQ rights but heaven help you if you won’t fit a specific label, plus you are so utterly fucked if there’s a mental or physical disability to factor in. I can agree with someone’s point of view on most things and still get into a fight, because of subtlety. It’s a very small list with actual zero/one outcomes, yet that’s all anyone ever wants to contest.

It’s getting to the point where silence becomes considerably easier than trying to engage anybody when you see them assume that because they know the facts, that’s the ballgame. The problem is, you’re as boring as fuck as a person if all you do is sit there maligning other people’s life choices because they’re wrong and because this is your feed you own the moral high ground.

It’s even worse when you know good people are just pointing at people who look dumb just to say ‘hey this person is dumb, look at them’ without explaining why. The drive-by quote tweet highlighting and then summarily condemning somebody else’s stupid has become the ultimate damnation, effectively dehumanising the victim with savage force. I’ve had enough of this, and am making it my business to stop doing it myself.

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You’re starting a fire in your own home just to prove you know how matches work.

Pointing fingers at people who are ignorant just makes you look cruel and mean. Arguing with people ends up as the thing you can use as a discussion topic at work on Monday… ‘somebody was wrong on the Internet, again…’ a self perpetuating never-ending massive wank-fest where nobody actually gets anywhere.

Those people who possess subtle grey-scale opinions that are worth hearing simply shut up and walk away, and you will have seen this play out across multiple platforms. Taking a Twitter Break and never coming back. Deleting all your game characters and simply vanishing. Losing the best people always hurts, and undoubtedly they’re the one’s capable of affecting significant change.

Why keep bothering to challenge others? Why risk an inevitable backlash when someone says something I know isn’t how I feel? Well, there’s the thing. It’s a genuinely tough ask to turn to a virtual stranger and suggest that even if we are roughly of the same mindset there are inevitably moments when both sides of a debate have merit. It’s even more frightening to watch them react as that point isn’t grasped.

Opinions are not facts. Some people don’t work well in text. Everybody can be wrong.

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Here’s the point, sorry it took nearly 600 words to here. Asking why someone believes in God and then dismissing that faith as irrelevant is the most arrogant thing you will ever do, and yet people happily dismiss people’s beliefs on so much other stuff without a second thought. Respecting humanity is what should matter here, and increasingly it doesn’t

Some of these concepts are, it has to be said frankly dangerous: the Earth is not flatThere were moon landings, essential oils will not cure cancer… and the list goes on. There is a world of difference between this and a reality where people can believe as they wish, and you should respect those decisions. You wouldn’t be so rude to someone in public, so why is it acceptable when they’re an anonymous avatar?

It’s why I get increasingly frustrated when vegans go after those of us who are mostly vegetarian but still like their odd bit of meat and fish. It’s why the hate against any transgender person is so utterly, totally soul destroying. There’s a line you cross, subconsciously or otherwise, when you judge people’s decisions based on sex or race… and other key subjects, and maybe there’s a better way than the instant shut-down.

What you eat. How you worship. Your attitude towards parenting. The key tenets of what builds society are close to being utterly destroyed, whilst we’re out here arguing semantics because nobody has the power to affect the change we all so desire to happen yesterday. That’s the key: yes, we need things to alter, as a human race, and it has to happen as fast as I can send this message. Except I can’t affect that change alone…

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OF COURSE YOU CAN AFFECT CHANGE. Yet, we arbitrarily judge anybody not known  by an increasingly ridiculously worthy set of criteria: nobody is ever going reach the standard of acceptable, and yet that’s what is decided every time Person X is friended and Person Y unfriended based on absolutely no facts about how that person really thinks or feels. It’s always about us. We need to start thinking bigger.

Friendship takes YEARS to foster, and yet if you’re on my list of people who I decided I liked, all that is forgotten. Suddenly it’s okay to go off into intellectual flights of fancy without a care… and if your friends won’t call you out or explain there’s another way, how will you ever know there is? Ask yourself a question: honestly, how well do you really know the people you call friends to begin with?

The one solid thing I’ve learnt over the last two weeks is that you don’t know anybody, even the people who claim they are. The future should not be automatically starting arguments when someone disagrees with you. It’s asking why they did, letting them explain and then choosing to believe that or not, and if you don’t, not to spend the next six hours online frantically attempting to prove you’re right. Accept people’s differences, agree to differ, maybe go away and actually think about what’s been said.

Twitter does not require you to instantly be right, and neither does reality.

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You are allowed to post stuff and not be ridiculed, but if it’s in public, that’s always a possibility. You can enjoy stuff other people don’t, until someone turns up to challenge it. Go pick heroes of whatever racial or sexual flavour you wish, and don’t worry about the consequences. When the Semantics Police come knocking at your door, ask them for the true meaning of their cold-call.

If you really don’t want the grief, vet your friends and curate your feeds and in time, you’ll never see a crossed word… which is also a massive lie. People like to make themselves look good: the meaning behind their post may not be the one you read. Who’s wrong in that situation? Nobody. Except, for some people, if only facts are what matters most and there’s clearly a right answer…

These days, my battles are picked very carefully. Not because I’m here to win, anything but. What matters far more in this world of instant response are the people who leave silences between their posts. The ones who aren’t checking religiously every ten minutes.  The ones I’ve read and watched over months and who get the bigger issues, and like us all will occasionally make mistakes.

Most crucially, those who will accept that more than one version of the same basic opinion can happily co-exist simultaneously are the ones who are worth holding onto, because if you’re prepared to accept in public you made a mistake that’s a sign of true humanity. If you back that up with factual evidence, you’re absolutely a person worth holding onto.

That’s what’s missing from so much of current communication at present.

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