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Staying silent has become a lost art, especially in the age of social media where we feel our opinions—absent of logic and reason—should be heard and validated even when they shouldn’t. No longer do we place an emphasis on pursuing truths and facts to form our opinions. We are indundated with false news and trolling, where people place more value in going viral and getting reactions than standing up for a specific cause and explaining their message logically.
Instead of researching and gaining information to make educated statements, arguments and debates have morphed into a weird fetish in which people feel the need to take part regardless of truth and facts. Screaming, without the use of a voice but through fingers tapping on a keyboard, is now a competition where the loudest person in the room is the only one being heard.
With the growing conflict in a two-party political system and issues surrounding race, class, gender, and sex as divisive as ever in America, the fight between individualism and collectivism is only becoming stronger. Although social media has given us a better way to connect with each other, there’s a consequence that doesn’t have an easy solution to fix: people are finding power in their voices and are now power hungry. In the age of social media, those who may have felt their voices weren’t being heard are now speaking, loudly and confidently.
Unfortunately, not many have a well-informed understanding of what they’re saying and the words they use, which explains how the term “freethinking” has been thrown around without context or meaning.
Freethinking is supposed to be independent of authority, forming and holding opinions based on logic and reason rather than blindly accepting established and well-known beliefs. Unfortunately, freethought has been misconstrued as simply contrarian thinking—only to appear different by turning the act of rebellion from an informed opposition into a reactionary one.
By this flawed idea of being free in thought, one must be their own person outside of any group, which proves contradictory. Imagine if everyone thought this way, there wouldn’t be any political parties, governments, or religions and beliefs to separate from in the first place. Yet even if it were possible for freethinkers to come together, it would oppose the notion of what freethinking actually is.
Because of this carelessness, it has only become easier for our voices to be weaponized. An example would be the issues surrounding Facebook and the 2016 election or the chaotic nature of trolling itself, where people say things simply to get a reaction for the exposure and popularity. Intertwined in all of this, groups with agendas have used our ignorance against us by spreading misinformation, recruiting for their cause, and antagonizing people to cause conflicts, all of which is done under the guise of freethought and going against established authorities and beliefs.
Equally important, constructive and critical thought is slowly being replaced by this flawed repackaging of freethinking, and cult personalities have risen into roles of public speakers and influencers.
Because of social media, we give weight to someone’s opinions based on their follower count and what side they appear on the political spectrum. It seems not many people are aware of their own hypocrisies, regurgitating information passed on by someone else without their own thought and due diligence while calling it freethinking. People’s need to stand out and be different has only grown to the point where arguing for the sake of arguing is trendy. This has created a situation where people dismiss any other opinion that doesn’t fit their preconceived views, blaming others for their problems instead of engaging in constructive thought and dialogue.
It’s as if people are unaware that politicians and other groups have agendas, and that they care more about retaining their power and influence than trying to bring about positive change by constructively addressing the issues that affect the country. To be precise, this article isn’t written to ridicule (or at least not entirely) any political party but to highlight the dangers of what happens when thinking occurs absent of thought. People are speaking to be included in the conversation rather than having anything worthwhile to say.
Although indivualism seems cool, the concept of collectivism cannot be dismissed as it has played a major role in how humans have maintained their position as the dominant species. Our ability to work together makes survival possible. In fact, human nature breeds collectivism as society has been built on the foundation of community and shared ideals.
While the allure of being contrarian holds weight fueling our internal need to be “special” or “unique,” it’s worth remembering that nothing is wrong with collective thought. Every thought and choice made depends on what is taught or what is perceived as favorable or acceptable by society’s standards; however, this is not to say everyone should be followers and never think for themselves. It’s important to understand that simply rejecting evidence and truth as an act of rebellion to oppose the status-quo won’t make anyone “free” but instead will reveal a person to be ignorant.
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