What’s on your mind? More than just an awning of a social media status (or outburst), this seemingly innocent question forces us to examine the case of the opinionated internet and how its earnest guise has encouraged a mob mentality.
Do you remember the time when the internet was simple, innocent or dare we even so much as insinuate, peaceful?
I’m pretty sure it is taking you to the snail pace of a dial-up connection to think far back to its infancy, where despite its almost Jurassic framework and flow of information, it was actually a seedbed for information where opinions mattered, thoughts were replete of pretense, and, for all its seedy reputation, connections were genuine. With access to the internet and its interface being a veritable luxury, it was held to a high regard—proving to be a world of wonder for all things imaginable.
But that seems to be a lifetime ago, because today the digital landscape is far from diplomatic. In fact, it seems that every single day is a challenge to navigate war zones, making sure no bombs are set or landmines tripped on. And all you really wanted to do was watch those mind-numbing, craft hack how-tos or that three-minute video of clumsy dogs. Instead, you are met with a cacophony of call-outs, cancel this and that, and just about every form of cursing, from the subtlest subtweet to the no-holds-barred, anger-charged Facebook status on whatever tipped your boat that day, because you know, everyone has to have an opinion and say on everything these days.
While the Hellenistic school of philosophy that is Stoicism argues that an opinion is an intrinsic form of misery, turning an objective situation into an emotional and subjective one, wringing out the good, bad, ugly, unfair, deserved, or just the plain preposterous, having a say on things is actually beneficial, especially at a time when fundamentals and basic liberties are being challenged to their core. A strong belief in something, processing a judgment, and voicing it out is admirable, but when not dealt with accordingly, or left at the wrong hands, it can get out of control—something that is seen, double-tapped, and engaged upon on a by-the-second increment on the daily.
Threshing through the sinewy composition of a fired up social media timeline can prove to be exhausting and emotionally draining. For every mukbang challenge there is a strongly-worded opinion on matters that range from the personal to the political—things that should be taken into consideration and context, but since we live at a time where everyone has to have a say, whether it be for the better, the worst, or even just to put their two cents in that nobody asked for, it becomes a breeding ground for misinformation, maligning, and for some, a desire to monopolize on the views of the world.
The Lion King Is Too Realistic, We Want Our Childhood Back; Brie Larson Is Ruining Captain Marvel And Here Is Why; Someone Who Said Something Bad In The Past Is Irrevocably Cancelled—these are just some of the severely misguided opinion header that lures us into a pit of unchecked, unapologetic, and uninformed expression of preference and privileged thought-fodder. To make matters worse than it already is, our echo chambers of like-minded contemporaries will usually buy into it and adapt it as their own. And this is where the greater danger lies.
In Psychology, the concept of Cognitive Biases, which can take form as the bandwagon effect, is an attempt to simplify the processing and interpreting of information, but ends up falling flat as an error of thinking, introducing miscalculations and mistakes to the mix. Despite a preface of an entitlement to an opinion, this is actually nothing more than a figurative airing out of the one’s dirty laundry or over-the-fence gossip. Exponentially endangering, this online behavior comes with an open-invitation to fan the flames of overriding mob mentality.
“If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” and so says an enraged Gaston as he herds the village to kill the Beast in the animated Disney classic. This perfectly encapsulates what has become the revolution that is the internet. Humanity has tipped to an almost deplorable regression where everyone from heads of state, esteemed journalists, and WiFi-wielding citizens engage in a pitiful word war of opinions.
This begs us to ask: What is the goal? Is it to inform and illuminate? To continue the conversation in various concourses? To foster the fate of the future in a more adept and aware manner? Because if so, then by all means, shape and sharpen your truth, and speak up. However, if the only intention is to jump the gun, because everyone else is doing it or it seems cool to be aware and opinionated, then save your energy for something else. Whatever delusion you may have, you aren’t actually helping the world by having your say. More often than not, when it isn’t needed or it isn’t substantial to the narrative, then it is merely stacking up harm than good.
No, we aren’t telling you to rid yourself of an opinion. What we are compelling you to grasp is to hold that vocal expression to a high regard. Think about what, where, and how you will say things. Don’t just spew acidic no-brainers just because the entire timeline is riled up over what annoyed the internet that day. The world needs no further reduction of humanity by relegating it to a cesspool of hate and negativity, whichever side you are coming from. In the end, the revered act of forming and giving opinions has become diluted to the point that, when it should matter, people won’t listen, read, or take part of. Let’s not make it any worse than it already is.
It is true, everyone deserves to have an opinion, as it is essential to the nature and nurture driven will of man. But since we are further along the chain of evolution, we should be more mindful of how we express these, when and where necessary. Every day is already a battle of so many more important things; the last thing we need is to fight fire with fire. Wars are not won with brute force, but with an imminent compassion and empathy to hear everyone out in a hopeful equilibrium, regardless of where your own opinion stands.
We may not be able to turn back the time to an internet of simplicity and amity, but we can still make it a better place for you, for me, and the entire human race who wants to say something—and watch that compilation video of puppies.