Any Argument Against Speaking Your Mind Is an Argument That You Should Ignore

For the fourteenth million time, I read a social media post that said “Your posts on Facebook will not change hearts or minds.”

Let’s put aside the irony that this person chose to post this inherently political dissuasion on social media (where, according to them, no one ever listens). Instead, focus on why we use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to begin with: They are social networks. We use them to connect.

Flawed and controversial as they may be sometimes, online social networks do allow the sharing of information that matters to us. They allow discretion, too. I can pick and choose who and what I want to follow. Taken to an extreme, this leads to what critics routinely decry as their ultimate failing: insulation from differing opinions. Used judiciously, it simply leads to curating your sources for information and updates among friends, family, news, entertainment, etc.

We did all of this before social media, folks.

Remember? I mean, did you really hang out after work with a lot of people you had extreme disagreements with? Sure, we all have to work with people like this; but did we really not practice some kind of discretion as to who we socialized with after? The pre-internet world was not necessarily some paradise of democratic integration. In fact, if you were black or Hispanic or Asian or Muslim, you probably find that claim more than a little disingenuous.

The pre-internet world was not necessarily some paradise of democratic integration. In fact, if you were black or Hispanic or Asian or Muslim, you probably find that claim more than a little disingenuous.

The public square hasn’t existed in most American cities for hundreds of years. As communities grew into towns, towns in cities, and cities into metropolises, the public square receded from public view, becoming city councils, school boards, county commissions, etc. Most Americans have never attended meetings of any of these entities. Most got their news of this vicarious public square from community newspapers and local television news. Of course, those entities have been bought up, consumed by national media corporations, homogenized and stripped of funding for investigative journalism and whored out to the sale of commercials and advertising.

Ah, yes, your social networking is such a waste of time. But where should we go instead? Where should we learn about our communities, our cities, our states, our nation, our world? Where should we go to express our daily exasperations and delights? Where will anyone listen to us? Where will we get answers that we can believe?

The doomsayers and cynics will simply bash you for believing anything on Facebook or Twitter or wherever. The problem is, they don’t have a viable alternative. Talk to your neighbor? I do. Talk to your local representatives? I send them emails that they most likely ignore, just like they used to ignore written letters. I call them just like we did in the “olden days” before the interwebs. Talk to your co-workers? I always did. Talk to your family? Did and do.

The difference now is that I can share those conversations with more than just the people in my daily sphere of physical interactions. Now I can reach friends whom I may never have made and may have lost touch with due to physical distance. Now I can find information curated and recommended by people that share my ethics, my passions, my kinder view of the world. That doesn’t mean I’m automatically ignoring the rest of the world’s opinions. Why would it?

I do not go out into the world, either the physical or online world, in order to change minds and win hearts. I go out into both to demonstrate love, compassion, and hopefully some degree of intelligence. I am not failing.

I don’t have to read, watch or listen to far right news sources to modulate my social or political views. I have had decades of exposure to FOX News and Rush Limbaugh. How can you not? Their bombastic proclamations have been repeated over and over and over again by corporate news shows on both sides of the political spectrum. They are playing in fast food restaurants, waiting rooms, and so on. I look. I listen. Mostly I feel sickened by the inhumanity of their propaganda, but one time in a hundred they say something almost sensible.

I have acquaintances through work, family, etc., who espouse far right beliefs to me without hesitation. I politely disagree with them every time. I engage in civil discussion with them whenever possible. I listen to and consider what they believe. However, I don’t need a daily dose of right wing scripted “news” to make me a more thoughtful and considerate citizen.

What I do need is a sense that I have agency to discern what is true and meaningful in my world. What I do need is a sense that I have meaningful things to say and a place to say them where I can actually be heard, however briefly.

This is what social media does for us. It is no guarantee that you will change anyone’s mind, no. Who needs a fucking guarantee anyway? (Answer: Tyrants.) I don’t want a guarantee that anyone is listening to me. I want the chance that I might be heard.

And, like me, others want to be heard; and I hear them when I otherwise wouldn’t. This connection, in my case, has generated not divisiveness but a sense of community. Like any social interaction, I’m discreet about how I engage new people on social media. There are trolls in the physical world, too, so I learned how to manage them before I ever went onto social media. Spend any time in a bar or nightclub (or a church, for that matter), and you will inevitably meet a few antagonistic, illogical assholes. Everyone seeking friends and people with shared interests and passions has to weed through a host (if not a horde) of people to find those they truly connect with.

I do not go out into the world, either the physical or online world, in order to change minds and win hearts. I go out into both to demonstrate love, compassion, and hopefully some degree of intelligence. I am not failing.

Only those who want us to shut up would think any of us are.

And if we shut up, anywhere, anytime, just whose voice will we be listening to?

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