Over the last few months I have started a handful of blog posts about social issues of particular importance to me. These include:
- On Being A Man
- What Adoption Has Taught Me About Race
- On White Fragility
Each of these posts has remained unpublished because as I start to unpack the issues and analyze my position in comparison to the opposing viewpoints, the whole thing just becomes a spider-web of connections, references, and opinions. At that point, I realize that these issues are too big for me to tackle in a simple manner.
Nuance Is Difficult
The challenge in dissecting many of these social issues is that they are extremely nuanced. Additionally, every single person has some personal history that has informed their own opinion on the matter. My well thought out stance on an issue could completely fall flat (or worse be wrong) in the context of someone else's life experience.
Complex social issues cannot be addressed in short social media posts, quotes from celebrities, a single Instagram picture, or a 5 minute spot on the news.
I write up a post with well thought evidence and references. An opposing viewpoint will respond saying my source is biased and that they have a better source. Is either one right or wrong? I am not sure that it matters because online we are unable to unpack why we both can find contradicting data in what we both believe are valid sources.
Beyond Social Media
To tackle these issues, we need to move beyond social media for a few reasons.
Social media does not allow for the nuance that is required to effectively address a position on a social issue and those threads quickly devolve into mudslinging matches in the comments section. Although many comments do begin to tease out the nuance surrounding many issues, these comments are not what a casual scroller is going to see.
On top of that, most of our social media connections are people who generally have similar viewpoints, so we are essentially preaching to the choir. Referring to social media as an "echo chamber" is not a new notion. We need to start having these discussions beyond the internet.
To really begin to understand where we want to go as a society in relation to social issues we need to start having these conversations in the real world. When you see something that does not jive with your idea of right and wrong, SPEAK UP!
This certainly applies to situations where someone is in imminent danger and also in many other situations. If you see someone being treated poorly due to their sex, gender, race, age, hobbies, political affiliation...anything; try to have that conversation. Try to understand that opposite side; understand their background and reasoning before just launching into attacks.
Speaking up does NOT mean that you should ignore someone else's opinion or that their opinion does not matter. What speaking up means is understanding their viewpoint, helping them to understand yours. Maybe one of you will convince the other of a different way of thinking; maybe no one will budge. Even if there is no resolution, at least both of you can walk away knowing that you understand each other a little better.
Showing a genuine interest in understanding someone else's viewpoint is a level of respect I feel like we have forgotten. Respect and understanding do not indicate agreement; those virtues indicate a love of our fellow human and a desire to be better together.
This understanding and respect is what is going to help us as a society get some of our joy back, to break down some of these walls we have erected, and turn away from the apparent division that is engulfing us.