Not that long ago, I wrote a post about the things that I enjoy which I’ve been made to feel bad about. One of those things included eating meat. I’m not a vegan or a vegetarian and, in my post, I discussed how I wasn’t going to feel bad about that anymore. On that post, a comment was left saying she agreed with most of the post but couldn’t agree with the eating meet part. And then she apologised. And it got me thinking: why are you sorry? We’re all different; it’s a personal choice whether you eat meat or not. Just because we fall on different sides of the veggie debate, doesn’t mean someone is more right that someone else. Disagreeing is healthy; disagreeing is fine.
On social media these days there is a stigma around having an opposing opinion to someone else in fear of causing ‘drama’ – seeing a tweet you really disagree with and biting your tongue because you don’t want to cause aggro. I get that but there’s a difference between challenging someone’s point of view and being downright disrespectful. A few months ago, back before the whole Zoella Advent Calendar debate made it to mainstream media, I saw a tweet I couldn’t help but reply to on the matter. A girl who I followed on Twitter tweeted something along the lines of “I don’t see why everyone’s so upset about the price of Zoella’s calendar”. I replied explaining why people were annoyed and she got really defensive, accused me of being lazy because I was replying to her tweet in the middle of the day in a Thursday (she probably did have a point there) and then she promptly blocked me. It was only until after I realised she had ‘Zoella obsessed’ in her bio and I probably should’ve picked my ‘battle’ a little better. This girl making an impersonal debate personal and calling me all the names under the sun is an example or being downright disrespectful and part of the reason that I can see why people don’t like to disagree with people on social media.
However, I think we need to ditch this nastiness and use Twitter as a platform for open, healthy debate.
The point of this story is that there was no need for that difference in opinion to get personal. You’re always going to find people in life who don’t share the same opinion as you. Whether that be something serious like politics or religion or whether it’s something more trivial like which Kardashian is the best (it’s Kim, by the way) or which sandwich filling is your favourite (mine’s chicken and stuffing, just a head’s up), nobody is going to agree with you on absolutely everything. And, if you find someone who does you should be very afraid because that means cloning is here and you should run. My favourite people in the world are people you can have a disagreement with without falling out for good. I am a naturally argumentative person. When I see something I don’t agree with, I want to challenge it. I guess, in a way, that’s why I’m studying politics and why I always enjoyed going to debating club at school. My favourite English lessons would be ones where we had class debates and I’d loathe it if the teacher put me on the side that I didn’t agree with because I really enjoying challenging opinions I don’t agree with.
And this is coming from someone who’s been on the end of abuse. Some of you may remember but back in the summer I innocently tweeted to alert people that MAC had now decided to allow a student discount. As a student and beauty lover, I tweeted my excitement about this. A very large vegan account got a hold of this and retweeted it to her followers and I found myself on the receiving end of a tonne of abuse. I had death threats sent to my email, people DMing me saying my life was worth less than a rabbit’s and one pretty disgusting tweet from one guy wishing infertility upon me so that I’d never have children to push my non-vegan agenda on to (which I don’t have, I love vegans, I just bought a lipstick from MAC once). I guess this is the kind of abuse people are worried about receiving from tweeting an opinion. But this wasn’t even me tweeting an opinion; all I said in the tweet was that I was excited that MAC had student discount. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what you tweet, people are still going to grab hold of it and make it negative.
Some people hate confrontation and I used to tell everyone I did because I thought it made me a better person to just agree with everyone. But as I grew older and started to know my own mind a bit more I decided I didn’t want to be a little ‘yesman’ anymore. There seems to be a fear, especially in the blogging community, about expressing opinions in fear of getting attacked and I’ve had enough. But it’s so healthy to disagree with people. It’s so healthy to hear and understand other people’s points of views. I’ll say it once and I’ll say it a thousand times: disagreeing with someone is fine. It’s about how you handle the debate. Don’t get nasty; don’t make it personal; never argue with someone you don’t respect or understand. It’s when you don’t understand where someone is coming from that it’s easy to divert the argument and make it about something else. When you don’t respect someone, you’re less likely to remain respectful with your language.
Obviously, some people don’t deserve your respect with their opinions. If someone’s opinion is that – oh, I don’t know – a wall should be built between America and Mexico to keep out immigrants, it’s pretty hard to respect that opinion as a well adjusted and tolerant human being. Therefore I would argue that perhaps you shouldn’t get into a Twitter spat with someone about that because you’re likely to a) receive abuse and therefore b) you’re more likely to abuse. Go into debates with an open mind, be respectful and if you know that someone is a troll or just trying to get a rise from you – Menimists are the best at this – then use that handy ‘mute’ button that Twitter provides you with. But, if you see someone on your Twitter timeline saying “I really don’t understand the hype around Jeremy Corbyn; I don’t know much about him but he doesn’t seem that great” but you’ve got a #JezzaForLife tattoo on your left bum cheek and you want to educate this person respectfully about why you think Jeremy is the one then do so. It’s healthy to debate and for some people (me) it’s really fun.
Just be careful how you phrase your views. One of the most annoying things I find on Twitter is the idea that you’re not allowed your own opinion. Know when your viewpoint might be welcomed, and when it might not be. For example, it’s rude to reply to Linda’s tweet about cooking herself a lovely steak dinner with “I hate red meat and it’s really bad for you”. It wouldn’t be rude to reply to Linda’s tweet about the benefits of eating red meat with your views on why it’s bad for you. That would be starting a pleasant discussion that you both could learn from.
I did a Twitter poll and 88% of people said they were often too scared to share their opinions on certain subjects on Twitter in fear of being attacked by a certain group or person. I think this fear of attack and the current climate of Twitter where there’s a new ‘someone is over party’ every day is a reason why people are scared to openly express their views on certain subjects or engage in a healthy debate. In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion and expressing it. There’s also nothing wrong with not expressing your opinions on social media. My point of this huge, 1300 word ramble is that I wish that Twitter was a more open platform for debate and people were less scared to disagree with others. It’s so normal to have opposing opinions and so healthy to express them, but Twitter has turned people off the idea of debate.
Can 2018 be the year of debate and exploring other people’s values instead of witch hunts and name calling?