I’ll be wholly honest, I hate confrontation. I’d much rather sit in silence, neither nodding nor no-ing, and then write a private response for the sake of inner peace when I disagree with a particular view or message. Personally I’ve always been far better at articulating my thoughts when typing in a calm space than in the moment of triggered frustration anyway, and certainly this gets me into a lot less trouble too. Lately however, the more I sit on my thoughts, bite my tongue and deny myself an audible voice, the more damage seems to come from views left unchallenged. Damage that may have been mitigated by someone offering an opportunity for critical reflection.
Particularly in the bloggers’ corner of the internet, there’s an unspoken code where positivity is king and if you don’t agree, you should keep your thoughts to yourself and crawl back into your hole of unpopular opinions. Sure, it’s important to maintain a friendly space on the internet, but when that space rejects realities in a world where serious changes need to be made and injustices need to be called out, it becomes a place saturated with narrow-minded attitudes and unquestioned false ideals.
“There’s no correlation between expertise and social reach…”
On social media, we have a tendency to just accept. If someone has a large following, is part of an influential network or claims to be an expert, we accept their word as gospel and quiet any symptoms of scepticism, telling ourselves that we have no right nor authority to comment. But there’s no correlation between expertise and social reach, and anyone who can’t justify their viewpoint against critique is not a trustworthy source anyway, no matter how many likes their Instagrams gathers. This is why disagreement is so important in the world we live in; it helps us dissect truth from trends and free-thinkers from blind believers.
Creating a forum for discussion and debate has never been easier thanks to the internet. We don’t have to be passive consumers any more. We are active creators with so much power to shape conversations. If a brand makes a questionable claim, a publication shames bodies or beliefs, we can be the ones to shut them down and tell them that fake news and discriminatory dialogue will not be tolerated. Like never before, we have the ability to create a better environment for ourselves and others.And yet, we don’t.
Each day, I see conversations promoting body insecurity, aesthetic privilege, unhealthy attitudes towards food, fitness and an inaccessible and moralistic definition of wellness spread by people with massive social reach. No one says a word. No one dares speak out because no one wants to cause a scene or be perceived as a troublemaker. No one wants to be the black sheep, questioning the norm, and no one wants to face the fallout from shattering an illusion of a harmonious community.
“Having the courage to comment when something isn’t right is what allows society to change, grow and develop…”
Disagreement is rarely gladly met because it questions a person’s legitimacy and authority. But if a disagreement is founded on an argument with substance and reason, is thought out and backed up, there is no reason for it to turn into an influx of personal attacks and attempts to disregard a person’s view. A disagreement, presented respectfully and appropriately, can be an incredibly positive thing, and we need to create a space where disagreement and critical discussion are not only acceptable, but encouraged.
Social progress is made through disagreement and having the courage to comment when something isn’t right is what allows society to change, grow and develop. The greatest inspirations of our time are the ones who went against the status quo in the name of justice, and the increasing diversity and equality we see forming in the world today is down to those who wouldn’t agree with past wrongs and stood up to tell others so. Alright, I’m not saying we all need to endeavour to liberate social groups, spark protests and spearhead revolutions – but you get my point. Disagreement is not a negative thing and we shouldn’t feel discouraged to share our thoughts.
If something makes you sit up and think ‘this doesn’t feel right,’ then say it. Voicing your beliefs, even those that don’t align with the norm, is a valuable expression of free speech. It’s empowering for yourself and for others, and reinforces that opinions matter.
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