Society has lost ability to communicate


Julianna Poe, Online Editor-in-Chief

Since my freshman year of high school, I’ve heard constant judgment of opposing beliefs. I’ve witnessed a constant emphasis on the idea that everything is black and white. How are we supposed to make changes in the world if we can’t be level-headed? If we can’t find common ground?

Around three years ago, I wrote an opinion piece on the societal pressure to have an opinion on everything and the unjust judgment given to those who don’t have the majority view. I’ve decided to revisit the article and emphasize how relevant it still is today as well as expand on the ideas I held as a freshman.

First, when it comes to expressing opinions, one must always be careful how they word them. Previously I wrote about how someone may not voice their beliefs because of “no interest in the issue, being stuck in the middle of both sides or even being unwilling to have an opinion due to the fear of what others may think.” When I was 15 years old, I could not take sides on any opinion because I was constantly conflicted. Today, I still struggle with seeing both sides. I am aware that nothing is black and white and that everything has pros and cons. Yet, while I have more concrete beliefs now, I either have a hard time voicing them or if I announce them I’ll be ridiculed. 

I believe there are numerous people who share the same struggle as I do: those who participate in groupthink in order to protect themselves. Who, when they attempt to express themselves, back down from conflict. I’m not saying I am proud of these actions. I’m not saying I’m making constructive efforts toward change. More than anything, I want to feel safe in my beliefs. I want to discuss ideas without feeling threatened.

Why do I feel threatened? Right now, our world is polarized. Standing anywhere on the political spectrum is dangerous, especially in the center. Every day I see people participate in confirmation bias, or the act of seeking out or interpreting new evidence to confirm a current belief. I see people refuse to believe they agree with anything the other side has to offer. What I don’t see is people reading opposing information. I don’t see people discussing differing beliefs. I don’t see people making an effort to understand each other. I only see dismissal.

Referring back to my freshman year, I remember being pressured into having an opinion about everything: politics, religion, social issues, education. I wondered why it was so important for me to have an opinion. Then I came to the realization that others needed to know my opinions so they knew where to group me or label me socially. My peers needed to know what topics to avoid around me, whether or not I’m someone they want to socialize with. 

Over time, especially after the pandemic began, I discovered that people now want to know my opinions so they can either be reassured in their own opinion or explain to me how my opinion is wrong. People no longer want to know my opinion to get to know me. People want to know my opinion so they can debate me.

I’m aware this isn’t a typical opinion piece. It’s not meant to be one. The goal of writing this is to allow for reflection on how society has lost its ability to communicate. Its ability to collaborate. I’m asking that readers of this opinion piece start recognizing when they feel superior in their beliefs and instead make an effort to be open-minded. I’m asking that readers start working toward constructive change in the world.