June 19, 2024

America is a heavily divided country. According to Pew Research Center, “Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than at any point in the last two decades.” NBC News released an article titled, “Americans are divided over everything but division.” Division doesn’t only mean politics. People get into strong debates over whether pineapple should belong on pizza, who should’ve won the Oscar, if SATs are truly effective and whether “the dress” was actually blue or gold. Many of these controversial topics are fueled by social media, illustrated by a study by Research Gate titled “Social media contributes to greater division.” Social media creates an illusion that people are correct in any and all of their opinions because it gives the user control. If you post that green is the best color, and someone comments that green is the color of vomit, you can simply delete the comment or block the person. No further discussion is necessary; you are correct. Additionally, you can choose only to follow accounts such as @GreenisSuperior and @NoColorBetterThanGreen. The green haters are out of sight and out of mind. 

However, my point isn’t that social media is bad. My point is that social media is like a cherry on top of our ice cream sundae culture. As long as you are persistent and loud enough when ordering, you can get whatever ice cream sundae you want. Isn’t that what we’re taught? If you stay quiet and wind up with a different flavor, that’s on you. Next time, be bolder. 

But what if next time comes and, oh no, you’re indecisive? The horrors. Well, if you are indecisive, that just means you clearly have no idea who you are. You should go home and do some soul searching and come back when you know and are so sure you have not an ounce of hesitation in you about what flavor you will enjoy. This is the status quo. 

I disagree. The pushing for and the appraisal of having definite, strong opinions about absolutely everything is hindering our society and it is what is causing our division. Instead of being incentivized to have an opinion about everything immediately because it says something about who we are as a person if we don’t, we should be pushed to learn. 

There are many studies that have been conducted that find a correlation between social media and depression, such as those done by HelpGuide.org and ChildMind.org. According to apnorc.org, almost 60% of social media users have needed to take a break at one time or another from their platform. I am one of these people. I have gone through multiple accounts because I get overwhelmed and tired of people just using platforms to get a pat on the back, saying things like, “I believe this, and if you don’t, unfollow me,” or, “If you agree, swipe up.” 

People don’t want to interact with you if you are unsure of something. In other words, if you don’t strongly have an opinion one way or the other, you don’t matter. 

It’s time to normalize saying, “I don’t know.” It’s time to normalize being quiet. Why? Because we are capable. We are capable of being able to listen to and process millions of ideas, thoughts, concepts, and beliefs and still remain true to our own identity.  

Holding back, even temporarily, allows us the ability to grow. It can be hard to hear something we don’t like. It can be hard to hear something that we’ve never heard before. But we are smart beings made in the image of God, which allows us the capacity to learn endlessly. Proverbs 18:15 says, “The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” 

Opinions are good — to a point. It’s when the concept of having an opinion is more important than the reasoning behind the opinion that it becomes a problem. 

And not having an opinion about everything does say something about you. It says that you trust yourself and have so much confidence in who you are that you don’t need to broadcast a thoughtless opinion to the world to affirm it. You can simply sit and listen to others, learn, and blossom into becoming a person who one day does have a lot of varied opinions — all curated over time with care, education and patience. If we all tried this, we could genuinely change the world — or at least make it a little less divisive.

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