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Opinion Responsibility





I had already touched on the worst extreme of opinions online because of the issue of trolling. But, what about normal day to day communication, writing and commenting? Just because something we say isn’t over-the-top rude doesn’t necessarily make it any less harmful.

The internet is full of misinformation, misleading headlines, implications, inferences, scandalous tones and so on. It’s easy to make bold statements and accusations when you don’t ever have to be face to face with real people. I take opinion responsibility very seriously. While I think we could all do better to be diplomatic by preceding our opinions with words like “I think”, “in my opinion”, “apparently”, “allegedly” etc to avoid something sounding like a statement of fact, that’s easier said than done.

I’m a real human-being, my name is Bryan Hadaway, this is BryanHadaway.com, clearly a personal blog. While I certainly hope my readers have confidence in my credibility I would also hope that it would be obvious that this is not an authoritative site by any means and as BryanHadaway.com it’s clear that any and all things I share are opinion and observation, by me, one person, an individual based on my experiences.

But, that brings us to another issue of opinion responsibility, assuming that people will understand and interpret things exactly as we meant them. If you’re a human-being and have ever communicated with another human-being you know that’s a very dumb assumption. While diplomacy is important and I often update my articles over and over to better phrase things to be clearer, friendlier and more accurate, you’re always going to miss something and you’re always going to offend someone, somehow, no matter how trivial.

That and the fact that sometimes it destroys the flow of natural writing to proofread and water down your writing too much. Sometimes, things just need to be said, as long as you’re being honest and not lying, spinning a story or being exploitative. To help deal with this I include a disclaimer at the bottom of every single page on this website.

No matter what though, if you speak your mind through whatever medium whether you’re right or wrong you’re going to rub someone the wrong way. As long as you stand by what you say and it’s accurate to the best of your knowledge and delivered in a civil, polite manner and with at least a somewhat diplomatic approach, it’s never a weakness to speak your mind, don’t worry about those who will disagree with or even attack you. Which brings me to my next point.

Disagreement is not a bad thing. Have you ever met anyone that agrees with everything you say? It can actually become frustrating. You might want to just shake them and say “What do you really think!?” Because disagreement is a very important and constructive part of communication. Without it, it’s very difficult to be productive.

The problem is that a lot (and by a lot I mean most) of people are very sensitive and very quick to interpret a disagreement as an argument. They feel that it’s an attack on their intelligence or worth to possibly be wrong about something. A lot of people feel such strong negative energy over someone disagreeing with them that it’s almost as bad or worse than name-calling.

I remember riding with a friend once and they remarked on the paint-job of a nearby truck “Oh look at that paint, that’s a pretty cool shade of green, huh?” I responded “Yeah, and it kind of looks blue the way the sun hits it.” They instantly became tense (you’d think I insulted their mother) “Uh, no, you’re wrong. You obviously don’t know what you’re talking about and I know way more about paint than you do.” I didn’t even respond, I just changed the subject.

I’m not going to go diving into the psychology of what makes some people so easily offended, I’m just going to acknowledge that it exists to these kinds of extremes so you can’t beat yourself up over offending some people when no offense was meant, it’s unavoidable. And on the other side of the coin, don’t be that person.

It really is unacceptable to be rude to someone just because they don’t agree with you and yet there’s quite a large amount of tolerance for it on the internet, you’ll even see a lot of up-voting for the best rude personal attacks (think YouTube). Being rude, sarcastic, throwing in personal attacks is a sign of weakness and we should discredit anything anyone has to say when done in this manner and not praised.

It is more difficult to be thoughtful and polite as it’s more difficult to be a good and kind person, but if you have a respectable point that should even be heard in the first place, it can be done.

So please, communicate opinions responsibly.

Thanks for reading, Bryan

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  • Andrew Lynch

    In my opinion, Bryan, you’ve hit the nail on the head. Upvoting and downvoting really brings out the lowest-common-denominator mob behavior we, in real life, have learned to largely suppress. Online interactions — due to their absence of emotional tics and indicators that alert us to proper or improper word or tone choices — result in awesome flame ups over the dumbest things. Your paint example is perfect. It’s paint, and a color, and the human eye sees different things depending on our attention span, mood, and, of course, light.

    I’ve excused myself from heaps of online conversations over the years because, at the end of the day, it’s bits and bytes and few can be swayed, and the awful behavior of the trolluminati — as in any arena, be it media, politics, or the school playground — will always attract more visibility than the lovely moments in our lives when a simple connection is made, and understanding is shared.

  • http://bryanhadaway.com/ Bryan Hadaway

    Yeah, I constantly find myself in heated discussions where I’m hopeful of finding a better understanding, but with people that couldn’t care less and are more concerned about sounding clever and one-upmanship – because they cannot differentiate discussion from fighting.

    Since I’ve already learned my lessons about remaining civil and not getting crazy upset with name calling and expletives, the lesson I still need to learn is just when to stop talking. You can’t reason with unreasonable people, yet I try anyways.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment and cheers to getting a little better everyday with the influx of people we deal with online on a daily basis.

    Thanks, Bryan