We can all relate to this moment: you’re scrolling through your Facebook newsfeed in between classes, and you see it. A video, picture or perhaps a lengthy political rant that you can’t help but read. Your heart starts to race, and you sigh with frustration. You think to yourself, “how stupid can someone be to believe that?” You’ve had enough of this person’s senseless shares and uninformed posts, so you quickly hover above the “unfriend” button. But stop there. Don’t do it!
These days, it’s far too easy to distance ourselves from opinions that we don’t necessarily agree with. Before technology, conversations based on religion, politics and other controversial topics were talked about less. When they were discussed, it was spoken about in person. Now there are no limits. We have the ability to express anything we like to on social media for everyone to see. Meaning, there are going to be a lot of opinions that you don’t agree with. So instead of avoiding these opinions, try to learn from them.
A downside to these conversational advancements is that there is no incentive anymore to research into a political candidate. Before even knowing a single fact about a candidate, social media will provide you with hundreds of predetermined opinions. Though it is important to learn from differing opinions, don’t let them become your own without doing some research yourself. Next time you see an article or a post about a candidate, or any issue, make sure to do your own research before you accept it as your own.
While exploring different viewpoints, refrain from placing yourself in a box. Registered Democrat? Watch the Republican presidential debates — for more than just entertainment. Usually get your news updates from CNN? Try watching Fox News. Baptized as a Catholic? Research Hinduism. A strong Ted Cruz supporter? Look into his flaws. Your own opinions, morals and arguments will become stronger once you maintain an open mind and keep yourself informed.
It may seem ridiculous to open up to issues that you’ve always had your mind set against, but remember there is a difference between listening and agreeing. The opinions of others, no matter how contrastive, should always be treated with respect. Millennials are known to be the most progressive and accepting generation yet, meaning that we are bound to butt heads with people in older generations at some point.
While a healthy debate is always valuable, be mindful of the fact that there is not always an endpoint. The goal is not always to reach an agreement but to respectively elaborate on different ideas. These types of discussions easily become emotional and passionate, so keep in mind that these subjects are often laced with personal experiences that prompt people to hold certain opinions.
Polarization increases in America every year. According to a 2012 survey from the Pew Research Center, our country has not been this polarized since the Civil War. Intense polarization is often depicted as a negative occurrence since it prevents compromise among political leaders and citizens, but it is not always harmful. Polarization allows for a larger flow of ideas, meaning that though a compromise may take longer to achieve, more people will be satisfied with the result.