Has social media killed nuanced debate?
It's okay to change your mind
The answer is probably yes, but let’s take a little longer to explore the concept of nuanced debate in a world that communicates almost entirely in 280-characters or less.
I am sure I have touched on the “footballisation” of debate before. The idea that we’ve seen complicated and often evolving situations turned into side-taking and insults.
The results of this are twofold:
All debates become two-sided
You have to pick a side
You cannot change sides
You could also argue that, like football, we inherit our views from our parents/the people around us and have spent no time questioning why we think a certain way.
Even in the less serious debates, we’re required to take sides. For example, last week’s Oscars incident inspired thousands of ✨hot takes✨ on who was in the wrong? Was it Chris Rock for making an inappropriate joke or Will Smith for the physical assault?
In reality, both men were in the wrong to varying degrees that are simply too long and complicated to squeeze into a tweet.
With the constant news cycle, these debates are typically short-lived and pass us by without any time for nuanced debate. And to most of us, this doesn’t really matter. Because it’s nothing more than just a debate.
But what about those people whose lives are the subject of the debate? Continuing with last week’s example, Twitter was hit with an influx of perspectives from all sorts of people - some were from those living with alopecia, others from comedians and others even used their platforms to draw comparisons between Smith and other Oscar winners who have been accused of violent acts. It grew into a wild monster of arguments with just about everyone having their own unique perspective on a few seconds of video.
However, just because there were a lot of tweets, it doesn’t mean there was much being said. And this is just the most recent example of a cultural debate that everyone must have an opinion on.
What about if you don’t know what you think? Does it matter if you don’t have a defined opinion on every single social, political and cultural issue?
As human beings living in a society, it’s our responsibility to take the time to learn about other people’s experiences and, from here, we can often shape opinions on right and wrong.
For example, today I found out our utility bill is going up again, with a new monthly direct debit of over double what we paid with our previous supplier less than a year ago. This is incredibly annoying, but it’s not the end of the world for us. I’d really rather not cough up this eye-watering amount for gas and electric every month, but thanks to our growing business and small house, we can afford it. And by affording it, I mean we don’t have to choose between food and keeping the heating on, we can wash ourselves every day and work from our laptops at home.
However, just because it’s not a disaster for us, that doesn’t mean it’s not something we should care about.
It takes very little effort to look outside of your own situation and see how these wider issues affect people differently. And, in this example among many others, it’s the people who are most affected by the issue who are listened to the least.
So, how do we make a difference without feeding into this tit-for-tat rhetoric that’s really just nothing but noise? Here are some thoughts:
It’s okay to change your mind: Perhaps you once thought one thing, and now you think something else. That’s fine. I know people who voted for Brexit at a very young age and now recognise that they made a decision based on propaganda and false promises. Equally, if your parents follow one political narrative then don’t just take their word for it - explore other perspectives and take the time to determine what you think.
Make sure your actions and your values align: I talked about this in a recent newsletter about whether brands really care. It’s a cliche but we vote with our dollars, so try to make conscious purchases alongside all those angry tweets about the gender pay gap.
Read widely: I’m biased on this one as I love reading, but until recently I typically found myself reading books by the same sorts of authors and within the realm of my own understanding. However, since joining ‘bookstagram’ (shameless plug for my book Instagram) and actively exploring other types of literature, I have found myself seeing the world from so many different perspectives.
You don’t always have to have an opinion: Groundbreaking stuff, I know. But it’s okay to feel like you don’t know on which side of the fence you sit. Perhaps you’ll work it out one day, or maybe you’ll never really understand that issue fully. Either way, it’s fine.
What do you think? Has social media killed nuanced debate? Let me know over on Twitter @ContentByTheSea or reply to this email for a little chitchat.
📚Our Wives Under The Sea by Julia Armfield - A strange mix of literary, magic realism and horror, this one tells the story of a married couple who are reunited after one of them returns from a deep-sea mission that goes wrong. I loved this and could have highlighted every single page for the incredible prose.
📚 The Island of Missing Tress by Elif Shafak - In my attempts to read as many of the Women’s Prize longlist as possible, this one was available at my library so I picked it up without thinking too much about it. So glad I did because it was absolutely phenomenal. A love story set across three timelines including Cyprus in 1974 and modern-day London.
📺 Top Boy (Netflix) - We finished the new series last week but I forgot to mention it in the previous newsletter. This show is truly unparalleled, and the new series is a continuation of the incredible writing and acting that we got accustomed to in the first instalments. Excited to see it’s been renewed for one final season.
That’s all from me this week.
See you next Wednesday with more musings on topics that are important to me, including but not limited to: mental health, work/life balance, internet culture, and much more.
P.S. If someone forwarded you this or you arrived via Twitter, please consider subscribing!
Enjoyed this? You might like these past issues:
30th March: Finding diamonds in the rough
23rd March: Do brands really care?
16th March: The future of this newsletter
9th March: Don’t shoot the messenger
2nd March: How to stay informed without going mad
23rd February: This is how it’s always been
16 February: You can only do your best
26 January: The way to a person’s heart
19 January: How do you work?
12 January: Being a morning person is overrated
5 January: Treading lightly into 2022
15 December: How do you compare?
8 December: Lessons on mental health from Henry Cavill