Are you Entitled to Your Opinion?
I love the internets. I surely do. As someone who has managed to make a career here as a writer after being turned down by every magazine going (and I mean that literally – even mags I had no desire to work for rejected me. That’s harsh yo!), I feel it’s a place where talent that wouldn’t ordinarily get seen via mainstream channels has a chance to shine. It’s a pretty level playing field. While one of its highlights is that it’s given everyone a voice, its major downside is also that it’s given everyone a voice. We’ve all seen many an online brouhaha (God, I love that word) at this point and are well familiar with the work of angry commentors and trolls. All seem to stand firm in their belief that they are entitled to their opinion. Today I ask, are they? Are any of us?
Let’s not get into the psychology of trolls, we’re all familiar with who they are and why they do it – insecurity, jealousy blah blah blah. And any article on trolls will tell you, they spend an enormous amount of time in their mothers’ basements, where they live, in food stained sweatpants, being angry at the world. (Side note: why always basements? Has no troll in the history of internet time ever owned a nice one bedroom flat of their own?) Also, just because someone disagrees with the points made in a blog post, does not necessarily make them a troll. Disagreements are allowed. Saying someone should hurl themselves off the nearest building for their views on the latest Avengers movie for example, may be a tad harsh.
What concerns me more is that the internet seems to have stripped a whole lot of people of their understanding of manners. They feel they are no longer needed in this brave new online world. They can say whatever they want, however they want – why? Because they’re entitled to their opinion. Or so they think. As a general rule, I tend to go with ‘if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it to them online.’ Just because you now have the medium to say what you want with no repercussions doesn’t necessarily mean it should be done.
Think of it this way – you go to someone’s house, they just bought all new furniture. You think the furniture is hideous. When asked for your opinion, you don’t say ‘I think your taste is abysmal!’ do you? No, because while you think you are entitled to your opinion, you are aware that you are on someone else’s turf and that to say that would be downright rude.
One thing that has been lost in the internet is that just like in life, you don’t have to share your every passing thought. For while you may well be entitled to your opinion, you are also more than entitled to keep it to yourself.
I’m not saying people shouldn’t express their opinions – I just advocate engaging brain before doing so. Just because you have a platform, doesn’t mean that general rules of decorum and politeness shouldn’t apply. You can still disagree, just maybe without calling someone a fat slag and insulting their mother. And if the target of your venom replies to you in kind (because, you know, treat people how you want to be treated and all that), you damn sure better come up with some better reasoning than ‘I’m entitled to my opinion.’
Well indeed you may be, but if you don’t express it well, I’m entitled to think you’re a douche.