Valuable discourse is limited when dissent meets anger

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It’s ironic that in an age of more available information than ever before, algorithms have pigeonholed us into narrow clusters of beliefs.
 
We’re zealots about everything as a result, and it’s come at the expense of productive discourse.
 
It happens innocuously enough: you like some tweets, and Twitter starts tailoring your feed toward similar content and suggesting you follow like-minded people.
 
Suddenly, you find yourself in the middle of an expansive echo chamber: a community of people who all think the same things. And, since much of our world gets its information online, almost everyone is in some form of their own personal echo chamber.
 
When most people are solely exposed to opinions they agree with, their belief systems can be reinforced to the point that they lose any willingness to consider criticism.
 
When our beliefs are this secure, it becomes drastically easier to jump at others’ throats when we disagree with them—but this isn’t an effective mindset. Neither person can understand the other when both are yelling at one another from opposite sides of a gorge. That impedes our ability to learn from one another.
 
If you want to change someone’s beliefs, outrage isn’t always the only solution.
 
This is no apology for the bigots of the world—you can still get mad. Punch a Nazi, call out your racist aunt at Thanksgiving, organize a protest.
 
But many differences in opinion are on a smaller scale than that. That doesn’t mean they’re insignificant, or that they shouldn’t incite emotions. However, a strong reaction toward a dissenting opinion can preclude conversation about important issues when it’s needed most.
 
There’s a better way to resolve differences in viewpoint than verbally pounding another person into grudging submission. Instead, let your words and actions be dictated by empathy and a desire to understand others.
 
We shouldn’t be so quick to hate somebody for their opinions. If you’d been raised in the same place by the same parents, chances are, you’d have similar beliefs.
 
You have no concept of how a person arrived at their perspective, so you shouldn’t necessarily let it define your perception of them. But when faced with new information in a good-faith interaction, you can—and should—choose to accept it.
 
I’m proposing a small de-escalation: that everyone acknowledges their beliefs aren’t unassailable.
 
Nobody, not even you, is right all the time.
 
If everyone is open-minded when provided with an opportunity to change, allowing empathy to inform their discussions, we might be able to find greater common ground.
 
So have a conversation instead of chewing somebody’s ear off—healthy discourse depends on it.
 
Jack is The Journal’s Sports Editor. He’s a fourth-year English student.
 

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