There’s something I’ve noticed since coming to uni; my voice isn’t very strong. Both in that I can’t hold a note at volume for very long (unless the music is so loud that I can’t actually hear my voice anymore) and the fact that I’m awful at holding my own in a discussion and eloquently voicing my opinion. When I can even figure out what my opinion is.
I’ve realised I have done this for most of my life but it’s only now that I’m starting to notice, or rather care about it. I’ve always hated conflict. I avoid it like the plague. When my sisters and I would fight, I’d be the one choosing a side rather than leading one. I’d be the one to volunteer to do whatever bit of housework needed doing just so that the stare-out between the three of us ended. (Ironically, I’m great at staring contests.) I’ve always been the first to back down. I like things to be as simple as possible, and to please as many people as possible. Is that such a crime?
Turns out… it kinda is. A crime against myself.
I can’t believe I just said that.
It’s meant is that I end up, to use the eternal metaphor, a sheep. I go with the crowd, jump on the bandwagon, think what most people think. I’m pretty good at convincing myself the crowd is always right, too – the winning voice must be winning for a reason, surely? Turns out sometimes it’s just the one shouting the loudest.
During secondary school, I spent more and more time on the Internet, as most kids my age did. The only downside for me was that this opened me to a whole new wealth of voices.
Most of the time I consider this to be a good thing; sites like Tumblr – especially Tumblr – made me more aware of the world than I’d ever been before. It informed me about all sorts of things that were going on around the globe, tragedies unreported by the news, endless things that we should take action on. There’s just so much information out there that it is quite frankly daunting.
Only the majority of it isn’t even information; it’s opinion being treated as such.
Now I’m not saying that people shouldn’t voice their opinions, I’m just saying that people should declare them as exactly that rather than stating them as fact. And even when you’re backing stuff up with evidence and links – which it took me far too long to look for in a piece before I believed what was being said – there will always be some subsequent comment listing every single way that argument is flawed and all the aspects that weren’t considered. It’s exhausting.
The other thing is that a lot of the time there is a generally accepted opinion on something that will be a counter-argument to some post and if you happen to get drawn into the original point of view, whether because it’s argued well or you don’t actually know much about what’s being discussed or whatever, you’re made to feel shitty by every commenter afterwards for being taken in by it when it was apparently blatantly obvious it was wrong. It’s worst when someone bites back with a situation they’ve experienced and you feel horrible for ever thinking the original poster could’ve been right when actually there’s no way you could possibly be expected to imagine every denomination of humanity’s response to a situation and figure out who’s in the right straight off the bat. Sometimes it’s instinctual, but other times it can seem so murky. And after reading a load of the back and forth, even instincts can be doubted. That’s where I struggle the most – when I can’t back up what I feel is right and the other side has reels of points against me, I feel obligated to just accept that I’m wrong when a lot of the time there is no right or wrong anyway, it’s really just opinions.
People can be so quick to accuse and shout about how stupid other people are, can get so overworked in trying to yell their points the loudest that half the time they don’t stop to listen to the other side. There’s an unspoken rule, especially on the internet, that once you take a stand, you can’t ever back down. You’re expected to know every tiny detail about what you argue because after all, it’s all out there somewhere, but the truth is that sometimes there will be something you haven’t considered before that makes you change your mind.
And that is okay.
But it’s also important that people don’t just jump into arguments for argument’s sake when they don’t actually know enough about a topic. That’s what makes it all a mind-fuzzying trawl to find the good stuff, the backed up stuff, the facts rather than the opinions. I guess the main problem is that opinions are intrinsically more interesting, with all that emotive language and a sense of life and feeling behind it. Of course, that just makes it all the more biased. See, GCSE History is useful.
I’ve been noticing this in the real world too. I don’t feel qualified enough or experienced enough to have opinions on so many things; I’ve heard endless political debates and I’m still not entirely sure who I’d have voted for in the last election. I spend half my time immersed in the opinions of minorities and the other half hearing how the majority views those issues from the outside and don’t know which side to take – or how to form my own in-between opinion. I feel like there’s always so much more out there to know that it’ll be years before I have my own clear voice in my own head that could hold its own in the big wide world.
So what am I doing here? Well, for the most part, adding to the noise. Just another one in seven billion who thinks their thoughts are valid and that maybe someone else might want to read them. Part of me wonders whether this should even be published at all when there are so many people clamouring to be heard. Is there any point in trying? I’m not even giving an opinion – or facts, for that matter – this is a musing, if anything. But if any one person makes it to the end of this and finds it somewhat useful or comforting then I guess it’s done its job.
At least that’s the justification I’m going with. Just like everyone else.
But what I can tell you is that from this point on, I’m trying to change; I’m going to put more thought, more time into clearing up my opinion, find the right way to express it then share it here, and with any luck, I’ll be better for it. Feel free to read along.