I quit Facebook a couple of years ago; I decided I just wasn’t cut out for it. I suffer from the inability to let egregious errors slide, especially when the topic is an important one. It’s not that I think I’m always right; I’m open to correction with a good argument. Unfortunately, that’s not a response I got very often. Most of the time, the responses were couched in personal terms: I was a troll, I was being too picky, or, in one case, I was making a ridiculous fool of myself for disagreeing.
Maybe they’re right. I’ve had similar reactions on Twitter, although I’ve learned to just withdraw at the first sign of it. What I find oddly disturbing, though, is how often a simple disagreement is characterized as a lack of respect. Have we really come to the point where we think it’s disrespectful to openly disagree?
Social media seem to be seen as places where anyone gets to express their opinion, no matter how misinformed, or, indeed, insulting, without the fear of being exposed to contradiction. If I don’t think something you’ve posted is correct, fine; I get to post my own opinion, but not in response to yours. As a result, we, as a people, can happily continue shouting at each other without engaging in any meaningful discussion.
Nothing wrong with this, where mere opinion is concerned, I suppose, but the line between opinion and verifiable fact has all but disappeared in our discourse. And that’s very dangerous in a democracy, because it leaves us open to all kinds of manipulation. Not the least of which is the illusion that the majority of the nation feels exactly as we do on all the issues of importance, because we never allow ourselves to hear anything different. As a result, when an election goes astray from what we perceive as the inevitable result, we’re convinced it’s because of corruption, or worse, a conspiracy. And who’s to tell us otherwise?
If there’s a single word to describe this trend it’s this: childish. It goes along with our fascination with the simple black/white dichotomies of the comic-book movies we’re inundated with, and “extreme” sports, also straight out of the comics. Are we doomed to continue this prolonged adolescence forever?