Thursday, February 16, 2017

Listening to the social elite

So, I’ve been a bit bothered by some things happening on social media. These aren’t new things, but I’ve recently had a bit of clarity about what it is that’s getting me all rankled: People like to think they have the answers for everything. I’m not excluding myself from this, my ego gets the best of me far too often.
The recent election and current political and socio-economic climate are merely adding fuel to the fire of egocentric commentary polluting Facebook newsfeeds around the world.

An example: Many celebrities are very vocal about their views on our current president, women’s rights, immigration rights etc. Recent award shows proved to be a stage for a variety of public opinion (many of them negative.) The “common man” largely responded negatively, saying that the “Hollywood elite,” should stop talking and get working. Social media crowds cried a chorus of “dance monkey dance,” in response to the onslaught of commentary.

This response to celebrity commentary on politics and current events is a tidal wave of negativity, and celebrities know they’re making people angry. Ashton Kutcher recently addressed the United States Senate on the issue of human trafficking. This monstrous practice, that even most people can agree to condemn, should have caused people to cry out against the rape and abuse of children. But, Kutcher accurately predicted the crap-fest he was about to face.

“This is about the time when I talk about politics, that the Internet trolls tell me to stick to my day job,” the actor said.

And he’s not alone. Many people have taken to social media to say they don’t care what celebrities think. They call them elitist snobs that are out of touch with reality. They demand the “elitists” stop talking and that they “stick to their day jobs.”

What I want to know is why the average person thinks that celebrities have nothing valid to offer? What makes the opinion of a “Hollywood elite,” less educated or less important? I think one could argue that even if we don’t agree with all their views, that these people are at least doing something. They are standing up for what they think in front of millions of people. Most people who complain are content to sit behind their keyboard and toss out narrow-minded commentary on the illegitimacy of a celebrity’s opinion. They don’t like what’s going on (or maybe they do), but they are only brave enough to post about it on Facebook. I wonder if risking the same condemnation from the rest of the crowd if they would stand up and state their case, live on stage.

While I may not always agree with a celebrity’s point of view, that doesn’t mean they should be quiet or face ridicule for taking advantage of their position to get an audience. Instead, we should be grateful they care enough to say anything. No, you don’t have to agree and people are free to speak to that. But no one should be discouraged from trying to make a difference or saying what they think. Freedom of speech does not just apply to people you agree with or people who make the same paycheck you do.

This trend of telling people to “shut up” isn’t just for celebrities. I am appalled at the number of people (women included) who have been all too happy to jump online and trash ladies who participated in a march for women’s rights. Why? What is the big deal about women joining together and supporting each other? What is wrong about asking that people start being kinder and more respectful? Why is their voice less important than yours? Does someone’s suffering or perception of suffering become less meaningful because you’ve never experienced what they have?

I think we forget that we’re all human. We may look different, think different, dress different and talk different, but that shouldn’t make any one person’s point of view less important.

Part of the problem is the thought that only one person has all the right answers. One party is always right. One race, one gender, one religion. You have African Americans screaming that all white people are out to get them and white people screaming back that racism doesn’t exist. The truth: it’s somewhere in the middle.

Men and women holler sexual inequality is burning the world. No woman ever gets fair treatment. The other side argues that women have all the same rights and they’re just complaining to complain. The Truth: it’s somewhere in the middle.

“Trump is an inexperienced monster that’s going to run us into the ground”, one side cries.  “No! He’s going to save our country from corruption and evil villains breaking down our doors.” The truth: (can you guess…) it’s somewhere in the middle.

The problem with social media is that it makes it so much easier to reject someone else’s opinion as invalid. While this certainly isn’t an issue you’ll find only on social media, I think Facebook and Twitter just shine a major spotlight on the problem. People don’t have to fear that what they say or how they feel has no value because perfect strangers are happy to let them know their thoughts mean little.

Here’s the real question we should all be asking: What makes your opinion so much more important than someone else’s? It’s a simple principle: If you want someone to respect your opinion, to listen to your thoughts, to consider your needs, you should do the same for them.

I don’t like everything everyone says. In fact, some commentary completely disgusts me. But, we should never discourage people from trying to make their world a little better. 

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