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Why Can’t People Have Civil Discussions With Those of Opposing Beliefs Anymore?

“two person writing on paper on brown wooden table” by Nik MacMillan on Unsplash

Over the course of the last decade or so, there has been a rise in the concept of “us versus them.” No matter what side of the coin you fall on, there will always be somebody out there who does not agree with something you’ve said, an action you’ve taken, or a belief you stand on.

You can see it in today’s social media world — liberals vs conservatives, Republican vs Democrat, vegan vs meat-eater, religious vs atheist, and the list goes on. As people have begun moving social interaction from face-to-face conversations to Facebook posts and status updates, I’ve noticed that people are far more content to huddle in their own little bubble of comfort among the people they agree with than to have a civil discussion with someone who comes from a different belief system. Of course, this has been happening since the dawn of time, but with the rise of social media, many people have exchanged intellectual discussion for heated insults and closed minds.

According to statistics from Smart Insights®, the number of social media users has grown by 5% since 2017, which means that more people are interacting online — often replacing in-person interactions. With this knowledge in mind, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s much easier for people to be blatantly hateful and rude to each other from behind the wall of a screen and an online username.

However, the number of people willing to have a discussion with someone who does not agree with them has declined greatly with the rise of many social media sites. I’ve witnessed people from all walks of life become entirely against the idea of having a proper discussion, simply based on the fact that many of those people cannot have a civil conversation unless each individual agrees on all fronts. Many people do not want to have their beliefs challenged, so they shut down any discussion that might have valid points for an opposing ideology. What this has created is a society that is divided, intolerant, and overly aggressive towards people who do not fit into each little box that people may want them to.

In my own life, I love having conversations with people who don’t believe all the same things that I do. I enjoy hearing someone else’s perspective on a topic I have a stance on and being able to discuss with that person why I have a different point of view on the matter. It is this back and forth discussion that allows people to expand their knowledge on a subject, which can either change their point of view or confirm the beliefs that they already had. No matter what the eventual conclusion is, it is the exchange of perspective that is so valuable. Several people only seemed to be concerned about changing the other person’s mind. This is entirely unhelpful because at this point the conversation is no longer about exchanging knowledge, rather, it has become a platform to tell the other person why they are wrong.

It’s fine if you think someone else is wrong for having a certain stance on a subject, but that is your opinion, and unless asked for, should not be given. I see far too many people tell others that they are stupid, sad, or any number of other insults — just because they don’t agree. It is one thing to believe someone is wrong, it is quite another to force someone else to come to the same conclusion you have about a particular topic.

Why can’t we, as a society, learn that no one will ever agree on everything? Never. There will always be people who don’t fit into your box of right and wrong. As far as I see it, as long as people follow the law and genuinely care about their fellow human, let them believe and express themselves how they will. In the same sense that you have the freedom to express your beliefs, let others have the freedom to express theirs without any need for hatred or animosity. Simple as that.