Stop Sharing, and Scroll for a Minute

Confession time:

This week, I told 3 people that I love and respect that maybe I didn’t have any opinion strong enough that I’d be willing to fight for it – I don’t like the fight – I don’t like rocking boats, and I don’t mind listening to other opinions – no reason for fighting.

My apologies, I think I lied

I revise my statement:

I hold very strong opinions. (You all could have called me out, but you probably knew I’d come to this eventually – Thanks) Some of my beliefs and opinions are based on life-experience, some are based on research. I’m willing to engage in civil discussions about every single one of them. I promise not to be offended if we disagree. I promise I will try to learn and listen as much as I speak. However, I will only do so when I know that the people with whom I engage in this discourse will speak and listen without becoming unnecessarily defensive.

In short, differing beliefs and opinions should not result in someone feeling victimized, attacked, berated, or undervalued. A discourse, a debate, occurs when 2 or more people have varying ideas and information and are able to come to the table and respectfully discuss the good, bad, ugly of their information. Maybe this results in both parties respectfully agreeing to disagree, maybe this results in subsequent discussions between which more information is gathered, maybe this results in someone’s opinion, understanding, or world view shifting – regardless, both parties will be more informed and better prepared to engage in the next discussion.

Recently, I have observed a complete lack of this kind of discourse. About COVID, about religion, about education, about politics, about human rights, etc…..(enter any matter of importance here)

As a teacher and a parent, I have constantly questioned how our society has seemingly devolved to attempt to appease the opinionated whim of the least informed and diplomatic among us – typically in my case, this translates to children – still supposedly learning who they are – yet given authority to do, say, and act in whatever way seems to best fit the day. These children are constantly self-absorbed, unwilling to engage in civil debate; are easily offended, have no problem spouting ungrounded opinions, are unwilling to listen to opposing points-of-view, enjoy threatening litigation, and seem to believe everything they consume on the internet. This is not true of every child, however, it’s common enough to note.

I’ve been confused and saddened at this behavior, hopeful that it is a phase, and then in the midst of a pandemic and presidential voting year, I scroll social media.

There, in the “news feed” of my day, I watch as grown adults share information quickly and without forming well-developed opinions – using social media platforms as a hive mind to which one might project the latest offense and then build animosity, anger, and division. I watch as we politicize and prostletize without reference to our audience – creating situations where opinions are only binary – either you agree, or you don’t – where opinions matter more than research, logic, or morality – where there is no room for discussion. It’s here that I begin to realize why my students largely engage in these destructive behaviors. It is what has been modeled for them from the time they could pick up a smart device.

Shame on us.

It is interesting to engage in this moment, when we stop the sharing and just scroll. These are the questions I ask myself as I scroll:

  • Where are the presidential candidates who are having real debates?
  • Where did this current information about COVID19 come from?
  • What populations are being represented in all these percentages?
  • What can I do – actively – to change this culture?
  • What is the science behind this piece of information?
  • What studies are being conducted?
  • When did it become okay to publish pictures of real people with words they may have said in order to make people laugh at them?
  • Isn’t this cyber-bullying?
  • Isn’t this shaming? Passive aggressive attacking of another human being?
  • What can I do to change things?
  • People sure are publishing a lot of complaints – is anyone taking actionable steps to change anything?
  • What are the actionable steps?
  • Why in the world are we still trying to make public schools function in a way that has been largely under-serving students for years before the pandemic?
  • What can I do?
  • What can I do?
  • What are you doing?
  • How do we change?
  • Are you willing to engage in a discussion?
  • Do you have information to back up that re-post?

In any case, I’m going to work hard to discuss well, to listen and speak. I will be respectful and it will be okay if we disagree.

My apologies for the rant and the reset – thanks for reading, and goodnight my friends.