I think we as humans generally have a need to rise above everyone—that is, each individual has an innate purpose to be right. We tend to gravitate toward people with similar ideologies and opinions, ignoring the importance of diversity, disagreement and discussion. This is a problem because most of the issues at the forefront in our nation are simply not black-and-white issues, and yet, we treat them as such, refusing to budge from our own ideologies. Why might this be? I believe it’s because of our heavy use of social media.
Let’s take the issue of illegal immigration, for example. Unfortunately, the solution to immigration is not so simple as we would like it to be. There are many nuances and fine details that make illegal immigration such a complicated issue, like most of the important issues we face. To make matters worse, the most “discussion” these issues can get are simple, condensed social media posts, often shared for the enjoyment of those with the same views as the one who shared it.
In fact, social media seems to be a massive catalyst in this downward trend. Association for Psychological Science Research shows that text-based interactions are not as effective as speech in achieving a goal or communicating an idea. In reality, text-based communication seems to have a dehumanizing effect on the user. People should be welcome to share their thoughts on social media, but comment threads, private chats and internet memes should not be our primary method of interacting with diverse opinions on such complex issues. The result is a lack of knowledge of what the other side believes and a subconscious dehumanization of those who challenge your beliefs online.
Instead, we should revert back to in-person, face-to-face communication when we seek any fruitful discussion. By doing so, we are more likely to reach mutual understanding and respect, as the research suggests.
Not only that, but I think we should take it a step further and change our entire mindset when we enter into a difficult discussion. Instead of having an attitude of emerging victorious (victory being changing the other party’s mind), we should have an attitude of open-mindedness. Be willing to have your views challenged. Be willing to learn about other people’s opinions—without needing to change their minds. Go the opposite direction and be ready to modify your own opinions. Enter into a discussion not feeling the need to play offense or defense, but instead, lay your thoughts out on the table for the purpose of educating.
My final suggestion—and this is the hardest one of all—is to be willing to compromise. Meet the opposition in the middle, if at all possible. As I mentioned above, the most important issues are often not black-and-white. Find ways to incorporate the best elements of different opinions so everyone has a chance of being at least satisfied with the result. I believe if everyone were to make an effort to discuss tough issues humbly, we would see more social progress and see fewer laptops being slammed shut out of anger.