No Opinion is the Safest Opinion

Since the rise of social media and the polarization of all public discourse (they are one and the same, no?), it’s become imperative that everyone have an opinion about everything. But not just an opinion, you must have the Correct Opinion™ whatever that may be.

There are issues where I care enough to have read multiple perspectives, and developed a specific (I would like to think “informed”) opinion. But there are many areas where I just don’t know enough, and honestly, offering an opinion is unwise.

But you’re not allowed to not have an opinion these days. Not if you’re anywhere on social media or those who want you to have an opinion are anywhere on social media.

This is where I envy my wife. She does have a facebook account (and no other social media), but she only visits it maybe once every few years. She uses the account so rarely that we were married before she accepted my “friend” request. The totality of our relationship to that point had happened between times she’d checked her social media.

Sometimes I try to tell her about whatever shitstorm is eating Twitter or Threads and she just asks why am I there?

As someone who is trying to build an audience for my stories, I have no choice but to be on social media to some extent. If you go to almost any social media platform, you’ll find I’m there in name, if not much in presence. But as someone who wants to be seen, I also don’t want to be seen when it comes to being dragged into certain issues.

I could make a list here of issues I do have opinions about, and those I don’t, but why set myself up? Why risk pissing off someone I’ve never met, and risk them calling on legions that again I’ve never met, to harass me for not sharing their defined Correct Opinion™?

So I use social media less and less, reducing my footprint, my reach, and any hope of building an audience. But if you have “the Correct Opinion™” you have nothing to fear, so why not make your voice heard, someone right now is thinking.

That’s not true.

Once you’ve stated an opinion on a crucial topic, you will be forced to stick with it forever, even if your opinion changes.

Here I will state an example. As someone who has done a lot of charitable work within Africa, I am a big fan of solar power and internet by satellite. For a while, this made me a big fan of Elon Musk. He was making something that the underdeveloped world needed into a profitable venture, not charity. That’s huge.

I’m not a fan now, he’s embraced so many extreme(ly stupid) people and causes. But that’s irrelevant. Anyone who wishes can drag up posts of mine from five or six years ago and use them against me.

I do stand by what those opinions represented at the time. I still think that changing the improvement of underdeveloped societies from a charitable activity to an economically sound activity is the cornerstone to pulling more people out of poverty.

I don’t stand by the man who was this movement’s poster child. And I don’t stand by a revisionist interpretation of my ideas through the lens of the Correct Opinion™ on social media.

In this polarized age, once you’ve stated an opinion, you’re simply not allowed to change. Not in today’s discourse, not on social media. So why do it?

I can’t be alone. Self-censorship, withdrawal form the public discourse, emboldens extremism. But what’s the option? Be sacrificed by people you may support for not being extreme enough in your voice?