How many times have you read on social media: “If you don’t like it, just scroll on by.”
Be it on an individual’s page or a group, I see this all. the. time. All the damn time. Someone posts something controversial (or sometimes, not even!) and the instant that anyone has the gall to offer an alternate view they are accused of being unsupportive or told they are just trying to start “drama”. Is that really what we’re reduced to, these days? Are we really not allowed to voice a different opinion or stance, lest we be told we’re judgmental or worse, a troll? Or my absolute favourite: the claim that the poster has the right to freedom of speech and how dare you challenge that.
For starters. Freedom of speech means that the government will not throw you in jail for your opinions. That’s literally it. Freedom of speech does not actually mean that there are no peer consequences for voicing opinions. It doesn’t mean that you can say whatever you’d like and people have to either agree or “scroll on by.” It doesn’t mean your job has to continue to employ you. It doesn’t mean that your friends have to continue to support you. You can say whatever the hell you want and stay out of jail. Yay for freedom.
Secondly, as I’ve already written about, it’s pretty unrealistic to think you can or should post things for hundreds, maybe thousands of people to read and expect that there won’t be a few disagreements in the bunch. If you aren’t in a place where you can truly listen to both sides, maybe don’t post so publicly in the first place.
Thirdly, most importantly, where is the growth? Where is the conversation, the healthy debate, the changing of minds? When we are not allowed to ever disagree with one another – or forced to ignore it when we do – we are forced in these silos of naivety and arrogance. We are surrounded by confirmation bias, content in our own little bubble that everything we do, say, and believe is absolutely the right thing.
This, my friends, is dangerous.
That is exactly why I will not scroll on by. When you post about how you spank your kid, I’m not going to just ignore that. When you tout the benefits of feeding pablum at 3 weeks old, I’m not going to pretend I didn’t read. When you talk about how unfortunate the SCOTUS gay marriage ruling was, I’m not going to support your stance with my silence. Because I want to offer the other side. I want to discuss my own findings. I want us to have a conversation about where your information came from and why you feel that way. Mostly? I want to understand.
What happens if I follow the “scroll on by” advice and ignore every post a new mom makes about letting her baby cry to sleep? I start getting upset – CIO is something I’m desperately against. Maybe I distance myself from her. Maybe I block her. Maybe I convince myself this is the absolutely best thing because I’m doing what I need to without upsetting or disagreeing with her. Right? Everyone else does the same. And maybe, just maybe, this mom hates using CIO but doesn’t know what else to do, and since everyone who would try anything different is just moving along, she gets no offers of alternatives. She now lives in this silo, believing that everyone follows the same approach, because nobody is willing to say otherwise at the risk of a debate.
Or maybe she’s perfectly comfortable with her choice. Also completely possible. The point is, I don’t know. I don’t understand. And I can’t, if I’m not allowed to ask. If I’m not allowed to tell it from my side. I’m not always right, and we will not always agree. That’s okay. I don’t need to agree with my network on every issue to love and respect them . I truly don’t. What I do need is to understand.
When I refuse to scroll on by, I learn so much. I learn that the new mom was desperately calling out for help, and I can share what worked for me. Or I learn that she was just strongly advocating for her position, and we learn that this topic is now off-limits for the sake of our friendship . Either way, it’s a much better ending than me being upset and cutting off contact. Not to mention all the lurkers reading the thread that may have been hoping for a different point of view. I can’t even begin to tell you how much knowledge I’ve gained simply by reading the different stances of people, even when I wasn’t quite ready to listen the first few times. Rinse and repeat for virtually any other topic.
Now, of course, there’s a way to disagree. Or rather, there’s an acceptable way to present your side, without coming across like an arrogant jerk. Diplomacy should never be underestimated. If you come to the conversation slinging insults and mud, it’s unlikely that any decent point you’re making will ever be heard. You actually can be a voice of disagreement and still be respectful of everyone involved. I suspect the people who don’t follow this are the reason this whole scroll on by business even came to fruition. Do us all a favour and don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy.
I’m not the be-all-end-all guru of the world – I’ve got a lot to learn, too. I hope that people won’t be afraid to challenge my beliefs, whatever those may be, so I can continue to question, learn, and grow. Sometimes, it ends with me coming out with a new perspective. Sometimes it makes me more stable in my original position. It’s all still growth, and it won’t happen by scrollin’ on by.