Facebook is great. I’ve moved around a lot in my life and Facebook has let me keep in touch with people from all of the places where I’ve lived. I really appreciate this because I’m pretty bad at staying in touch otherwise.
Because of the places I’ve worked and the experiences I’ve had, I tend to live along the whole political spectrum on Facebook. My newsfeed is full of what some would consider to be the politically liberal and ultra-liberal. It is also full of the conservative and ultra-conservative. This means that whenever an issue arises in the country, I’m fortunate to get nearly every perspective on it.
I’m honest when I use the word “fortunate” because I appreciate all of my friends and the perspectives that they bring to the conversation. I don’t always agree with all of them (liberal or conservative) but I appreciate hearing various perspectives and opinions.
One thing has become more and more apparent over the last few years and it distresses me greatly. It is the fact that in every disagreement that takes place anymore everyone is making the exact same argument.
What? (You might be asking yourself this question right now) If everyone is making the same argument how can there be disagreements? Doesn’t that mean that everyone should be getting along? While that would be awesome, unfortunately that’s not what’s actually going on.
The only way that would work is if people were making these arguments based on facts or some sort of well reasoned logic. As far as I can tell all of that kind of reasoning flew out the window a long time ago. Unfortunately now the only argument that is being made is “I’m right and you’re an idiot.”
Let me clarify that slightly. You’re not an idiot if you agree with me or others who agree with me. You’re only an idiot if you hold any position different than mine. It doesn’t matter the basis for your position, how reasonable your position might be, or even how many people hold the same position. All that matters is that it is different than mine and that therefore makes you an idiot for holding the position.
I’ve seen this from those who would be considered politically conservative and I’ve seen it from those who would be considered politically liberal. It doesn’t matter what end of the spectrum you’re on, I’ve seen it in the statuses that are posted and the links that are shared.
The reason this distresses me is that it is bad. Bad for you, bad for me, bad for relationships between people, bad for America and bad for society in general. It’s bad because being able to take that position means that we’re excused from the requirement of forming a well-reasoned argument for why we hold our position. It also frees us from the critical thinking skills necessary to understand why someone might hold an opposing position.
Critical thinking is a skill that’s value cannot be overestimated. Critical thinking is what allows us to function in a world with so many competing philosophies and viewpoints. Critical thinking is what helps us evaluate our own position based on everything we know and form a well-reasoned argument in support of that position. Critical thinking is also what allows us to step outside of ourselves for a moment to attempt to understand the position held by someone who you know to be quite reasonable, loving, and caring in real life. (I mean why would you have a FB friends list full of jerks? There was something that brought you together as friends.)
Once critical thinking is lost, all is lost. I don’t mean to sound like an alarmist, but if there is no critical thinking then we devolve into a society where all that matters is who can shout the loudest. It doesn’t matter whether or not they’re right or even if they can make a good argument, all that matters is if they can yell the loudest and shame their opponents into submission. This sounds neither pleasant nor civilized.
So if you’ve reached this point, thanks. Thanks for reading and thanks for being interested in this. Please try to find ways to use critical thinking in your daily life and encourage others to use it too. Think about your position on something, really think about it. Have you thought about it from every angle? Why does someone take a position different than yours? If you’re wondering, find someone and ask. Then just listen. Don’t argue, don’t insult, and don’t walk away. Listen to what they have to say and try to actually understand them.
Do you know what is neat about critical thinking? You don’t actually have to agree with the person who has a different position than you do. Another neat thing is that critical thinking allows you to be respectful. There is so little respect in the “I’m right and you’re an idiot” philosophy to life. Respect is a key foundation to conversation and conversation sometimes leads to changes in a person’s position.
If you believe so strongly in your position about something then you probably want others to hold the same position. The only way that this might happen is if you’re able to have respectful conversations. Leading with “I’m right and you’re an idiot” will pretty much shut down any prospect of respectful conversations.
So try. Try to be respectful. Try to critically think about your position and the position of others. Avoid a knee jerk reaction combined with the ease of Facebook posting to skip either of these steps. We can make things better, but it takes a commitment and one person at a time to step up and show respect.
My name is Tom. I'm fascinated by the ways that people, ideas, current events and theology interact with each other.