Your Opinion Might Be Killing You
This post should be relevant no matter when you come across it. You’ve no doubt contributed to “the discourse” on Facebook, Twitter or (God help you) Tumblr. At some point you’ve gotten into a debate about your beliefs, your opinion, or your general position on any given issue. And perhaps that debate devolved into something uglier, maybe a little more petty with the requisite ad hominem attacks, and suddenly you were no longer in the middle of an intelligent debate but perpetuating what has come to be known as a “dragging.”
Without sitting at someone’s computer right along with them, you can’t be exactly sure of a person’s temperament when they engage this way online. You don’t know if they’re legitimately angry and frustrated or if they’re smiling and giggling, delighted that their performance has caught on and accrued more retweets, replies and followers. But the impact of what we do in these scenarios–as a conscious, intelligent and opinionated people–will forever, regardless of the intention, be known as OUTRAGE. To be sure, not everything qualifies as OUTRAGE; some things just earn a side-eye. But this is The Internet, and it only takes a few side-eyes to qualify as a collective OUTRAGE.
Listen, there’s nothing wrong with reacting. Terrible shit is happening to us every day, and to express an opinion is a natural inclination. But there’s something to be said for pulling out from time to time, to stop caring about everyone else and care about yourself. And for those of us that don’t participate in the business of OUTRAGE, or rely on these matters as part of media work, it can be hard to qualify the investment of one’s emotional currency in these conversations. The problem is, most of us don’t believe it needs to be qualified. We have the freedom of our opinions and anyone that doesn’t want to engage with them can turn the other way. But I don’t think that kind of entitlement does us any favors.
Do a Google search for “social media stress.” There’s no way to conclude for certain that The Internet causes stress, but it can make you hyper-aware of everyone else’s issues. Being Black is stressful enough on its own without taking on someone else’s frustration. And if you are frequently “going in” on any given issue, with any given stranger whose sole objective might be to troll you, you probably need to consider if the temporary catharsis associated with being the most correct or the most clever is worth it.
I’m not interested in telling anyone what to do, but personally I’m starting to run very low on the amount of energy I can devote to identity politics, or any number of topics that persist among my online familiars. This might not be the case for you; your passion might supersede any other considerations. Your passion could also be channeled in others ways, ways that manifest in positive, real-life, tangible solutions. Who knows? But one thing I’m certain about is the extent to which I’m responsible for my own peace of mind. It’s a slight freedom I have, but a freedom nonetheless. Sometimes divesting from the echo chamber can be beneficial; you have to trust there are enough voices doing the work. A break might do you some good.