We are losing the art of conversation. As someone who loves words and an open and free exchange of ideas, this is beyond devastating.
I have not been on campus for class since March. This lack of social exchange has been hard, but what has been worse are the exchanges I am having with friends and family via social media or text. Things you would be shocked to hear someone say in a face-to-face interaction can flow easily with that extra layer between you.
I have been saying for some time now that I believe people are inherently good, that extremism on either side must be the minority. But I am starting to lose faith.
What started out as a platform to keep up on family and watch puppy videos has turned into a political slaughterhouse. Misinformation runs rampant, and those who champion free speech are ready to smear you when you disagree.
I will be the first to admit I have not always played nice on social media. I may throw a snarky remark to a political story. But when did we transition to attacking family and friends? At times I feel it crept up slowly, but other times I feel like one day we just flipped a switch.
As a Journalism and Digital Media major, turning off social media completely is not much of an option. At this point, I do not think it would help. What I am seeing is this combative and easily triggered behavior is not assigned to just that space anymore.
For the most part, we choose the people in those spaces we occupy, while the ones we don’t choose — whether that be family, colleagues or classmates — we remain civil at minimum, right?
In the last few weeks, a good friend called me “nasty” over a question I had in response to his comments on the day Joe Biden was announced the projected winner of the election. I was only trying to gain insight to him feeling empty inside. He also assumed I had an agenda when telling him to be careful on a trip to Salt Lake due to the high COVID numbers. (Spoiler alert: I just wanted him to be safe because he is my friend.)
I had a family member openly try to ream me out on Facebook over my reply to his political comment. I had an ex-coworker get terribly offended when I suggested people from both parties try working together to move forward. A few people have said I think I am smarter than everyone if I throw my two cents in a conversation or that I sound snotty if I say, “What I have learned as a journalist is…” Would they be as offended if my profession was dentistry and I said, “What I have learned as a dentist is…”?
Tonight, I sit here exhausted and sad. I miss conversation, and when I try to have one on the few outlets available to me, it becomes a dumpster fire. Where do we go from here?
The political climate is difficult right now. What am I saying? The world is difficult right now.
What I encourage is this: Remember why you chose those people to be in your circles. Remember intent — no, my intention is never to emotionally maim you or come at you with a politically charged, “be careful.” Remember what you know to be in people’s hearts. Remember, if you would not say something to someone’s face, maybe rethink how you go about it.
I can’t believe I feel I have to say this, but remember that a person’s vote — hopefully — does not define them. I have heard people call all Trump voters racist, and all Biden voters fascists. Maybe instead, ask what was at stake with their vote and listen. I have to believe we have more overlapping ideals than not.
I, for one, desperately miss the art of conversation and hope that we can all work to revive it.