Facebook. This one website gave us a vehicle that changed the way we express ourselves. We can find others with views that are like our own and explore our interests through groups, secret or public. We post our likes and our dissatisfactions and thrive on the feedback we get from others.
Living in the United States and the Western world we are certain of one thing: we have the right to express ourselves in any way we wish. Right? (For when you need it, here’s an article about how to eat crow with dignity.)
Does that mean I can stand on my soapbox and say whatever I want, whenever I want? Technically yes. This is a crucial element of a free society. It is equally important for creative entrepreneurs because it is our job to express what others may not be able to say. Creative expression is meant to inspire, provoke, communicate, and inform. This is a good thing.
And then we read our Facebook newsfeed. It’s almost ironic to call what we scroll through a “newsfeed” because it is an “opinion feed” if it’s anything at all. It seems many people look to their peers first before deciding on which side of an issue to stand. And that decision is made passively by clicking a like button (or not) while sprawled on a comfy couch munching overpriced organic snacks. This is not how responsible opinions are formed.
In my idealistic world I believe the best opinions are formed after listening to both sides of an argument. After all, how can I know the full story without first understanding the far left and the far right?
(And here we have arrived at the part of this post where I cover the bases in hopes of avoiding certain expected responses.) I like kittens and baby animals. I agree that everything should be free and that I deserve to expect a fabulous life without problems, debt, or difficulties. I believe there are inherent problems with governments, private enterprises, big business, banks, and pharmaceutical companies. I also enjoy funny and nonsensical memes and watching videos of human kindness that make my eyes well with tears.
Those are not the types of posts I am talking about. I am talking about political and humanistic statements. I am talking about expressing your innermost beliefs through your own creative expressions or contributions, instead of sharing someone else’s. And therein lies the responsibility for us creatives.
A few weeks I was invited to speak on a radio show that left a lasting impression on me. I had no idea some people truly believe prayers can “fix” being gay or transgender. I was faced with two options. Would I tell him exactly what I think about his archaic ideas, or would I attempt to persuade him otherwise by offering as many arguments as I can about why being gay or transgender is not a choice?
I chose to take the road of reason supported by data and studies that tell the story, and then I interpret these findings.
As creatives we have an obligation. We must know our data, know our facts, and really know the roots of issues we wish to speak out about. And once we are armed with this knowledge, we have earned the right to speak our opinions because they are based on facts. Then—and only then—should we engage. The difference in how our opinions are received is amazing. Suddenly we no longer have to shout to be heard because our voices are clear and strong. We understand our position and we can allow ourselves to hear how the other side interprets the issue.
Because in the end, everything in a functioning society boils down to negotiation and compromise. What do your opinions contribute to the greater good?