Recently, as I was scrolling back through previous articles I’ve written for The Daily Campus, I came across what I believe is my very first hate comment. The angry, long, rambling message that had very little to do with what I had actually written about — and actually bordered on agreeing with my argument — intrigued me.
I’m not upset by the comment in the slightest. After all, by writing for a newspaper’s opinion section, I acknowledge not every reader will agree with what I have to say. I’m fully aware of this and accept the inherent vulnerability each time I submit a piece for publishing. If anything, I’m a little proud that my article caused someone to speak up and engage in a discussion with me.
More people should be willing to have an open discussion on topics they are passionate about. However, in the age of cancel culture, coupled with the virality of the internet, people can sometimes be afraid of having opinions, or at least afraid to share them for fear they have the “wrong” opinion. To me, this is silly.
This fear of being wrong should not keep people from putting themselves out there and talking to others. There’s always going to be someone who disagrees with you. Why do we default to refusing engagement with that person? If you have an opinion that makes sense to you and is backed up in relative reason, you shouldn’t have to be afraid to say it. But this fear is created when people become so attached to their opinions they double down when facing opposition, becoming defensive rather than conversational. We tie our worth into what we believe, and we feel as if that worth drops when someone is willing vocalize opinions that differ. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence supporting the other side, people will still staunchly defend their original position. This approach embraces cognitive dissonance as their new reality rather than the factual truth.
Opinions don’t have to be permanent. Honestly, in our fast-paced, ever-changing world, it’s ridiculous to assume opinions should remain stagnant. Why do we silence ourselves out of fear of being “wrong” (when often there is no “right” answer, and we could instead use differences in thought to foster broad discussions and open communication? Our lack of willingness to hear others out and vehement avoidance of changing our minds is only harming us in the long run. If people are capable of growth and change, their opinions are bound to change as well.
I don’t want to advocate for more hate comments. The world can be a very negative place, and I don’t believe actively adding to the negativity will solve any issues. Nevertheless, the failure to communicate will not solve these issues either. We can’t be afraid to speak our minds. Refusing to offer our opinions and engage in discussion will build walls, creating stigmas surrounding our personal beliefs and thus limiting access to important conversations. Personally, I write for this opinion section hoping to spark these important discussions — even if just among my editors, other writers and myself. There’s no way to have an open conversation when we’re too afraid to speak.