Summary - What can we do and how do we get there?
As today's political and societal temperatures are at an all-time high, we can get back to basics - so to speak. As mentioned in the article, we have more in-common with each other that not. While we can live on different ends of the spectrum ideologically, the fact is that, when pressed, we agree more than we don't. What we can begin to do is have more open and honest dialogues and not jump to preconceived conclusions and actually have a desire to LISTEN. As one of my personal favorite shows of the past used to say - "The Truth is Out There". While I'm not talking about supernatural and alien sightings, I do think that the truth is is more tangible than we may be led to believe - for all of us!
What is "Right"?
adjective, right·er, right·est.
- in accordance with what is good, proper, or just: right conduct.
- in conformity with fact, reason, truth, or some standard or principle; correct: the right solution; the right answer.
Going back to our title, we all want to be right, right? What wee have seen today, though, is that "right" becomes a little more hard to define and who holds the definitive authority on what right is? This is where the problem manifests itself on today's society and its impacts are troubling.
Being Right in today's age of Social Media
There have been so many studies that highlight the need for individuals to demonstrate they are right to others they don't even know as well as their internal circles. This need to be right presents itself all over the varying social media platforms. I wrote another article about how the rise of social media has impacted some of the core fabrics of our society and our ability to interact with others.
The impact of wanting to be right should not be underestimated. Dr. Steven Stosny wrote a great article, "Beware of Being Right" in Psychology Today, about some of the items I am highlighting in this article. While his article focused on the effects within personal relationships, the overall impacts in our society draw many of the same parallels.
The Challenges of Being Right
While so many of us think we're right in many situations, what we have to realize is that the other parties we may be debating with feel just as passionately that they are right? How can this be?
Today's society is as divided as ever and recent events show that this division is almost exactly down the middle of our population. It's not as if we have a minority amount of the population believing in one "right" while the majority holds another view that is more widely recognized as "right". This makes it very hard, if not impossible, to identify who is right and who is wrong. Perhaps there is no right or wrong but the problem is that our human nature forces us to believe that one side is right and the other is wrong. Herein lies much of the problem.
Some of the factors that we should recognize that are standing in the way of us being right include:
- Single source of information - Because of the polarized division, much of the population gets their information from a single source. Whether that's a news channel, cable channel, website, or some other media, the problem with this is that the consumption of information generally does not present a 360 degree approach to the topic at-hand and thus provides the consumer the perception that what they are consuming is "right"!
- Social Media Algorithms - Beware the 'newsfeed'. Algorithms have been discussed, and proven, to show that the information being displayed is highly manipulated based on your preferences and interactions. What you see as 'news' on a daily basis is often just a set of headlines and opinions that are geared to increase your interaction with that site, not increase your knowledge on any one topic.
- Word of Mouth - Many times we may get our information from trusted acquaintances and friends. The problem with that? More than likely, they've fallen into the same traps and rabbit holes described above.
So how can we do better and be more confident in being "right"?
The first step sounds very cliché but is real. We have to come to the realization that we may be, in fact, WRONG! We need to challenge ourselves not just to be consumers of information but rather evaluators of information. This is so much easier said than done. Given the polarization, and even radicalization, of much of the population we have lost trust in even those that were once trustworthy. Many of us struggle to even LISTEN to competing opinions but we must figure out how to meet somewhere in the middle or I believe we do have a real, global crisis on our hands. We've already started to see in 2020 and now 2021 how information taken wrongly, incompletely, or inaccurately can lead to dangerous activity within the public. There are double standards that both sides are employing and the quicker that we understand that, the more of an independent thinking society we can be. Do not think that you are not being purposefully led down purposeful rabbit holes - you are. We must challenge the concept that one side is right and the other side is wrong.
As I mentioned in my other article about how social interaction has suffered in the digital age, what we often say to each other when actually TALKING to one another is so different than what it looks like when we are interacting online with each other. What we say online should have as much thought and consideration for the other side as if we were debating with a friend at lunch. The real fact is that these 'debates' circle the drain so quickly online that it does not trigger any pause for either side to take relevant points of the opposing party. This is where we've broken down as a society in our ability to communicate and have honest and open dialogues about important topics. The rush to be RIGHT is a dangerous part of our society and one that is getting engrained into our future generations. Imagine these future generations not having the ability to have actual debates on merit and quickly escalating to personal attacks, disinformation, and more. We need to be better and it starts with challenging yourself to be better. This is not a problem that others can fix, it HAS to start with the individual. The individual HAS to want to be better informed and not just a pure consumer of opinion from any one source of information.
Observations (and Hopes)
As Dr. Stosny says, "Seeming to be right justifies disrespect, contempt, and other forms of emotional pollution, which spread like wildfire in our electronic age. In addition, they suffer an illusion of certainty." There are real physiologic and psychologic effects of this feeling of "right" that should not be ignored. These are playing out in our society today. We see it range from simple disagreements at the dinner table all the way to violent protests being carried out on both sides of the political spectrum.
The debate of being right and what is the truth has raged for ages. The difference now? We have platforms and technology that can spread opinion disguised as truth so easily and, worse yet, consumed even easier. As Mark Twain (may have said), “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” While I'm not saying all information presented to consumers is lies, it is my hope that society can start swinging this pendulum back and begin challenging themselves to validate information. I do believe that we all fundamentally have much more in common than not. The fact that we have been hypersensitized, and in some cases radicalized, to the world around us should hopefully begin to wake us up and begin rebuilding the faith and trust in each other that has made this nation great - even to this day!
“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
— Mark Twain
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Brian Harris