Sep 8, 2018
What is the purpose of an opinion?
I can honestly tell you, dear reader, I've never actually asked that question before. I've always just had opinions in the same way I've had blood and bones and organs. They're just in there, somewhere, doing their job, without me ever really needing to ask, "What is their job?"
This question wasn't the result of a divinely delivered insight. I arrived at this question after a year of deep consideration - a year of doubting the long-term merit of social media (Twitter, in particular) where Opinion operates as a kind of currency.
In fan-communities, such as pro-wrestling's, Opinion fuels the market, and everyone tries to buy (or be) a promising stock.
I've had plenty of opinions on hot-topics in recent pro-wrestling (often immediate, strong opinions), and yet I stopped myself from expressing them.
I "kept my opinions to myself", locking them in a safe housed in the recesses of my mind, opened only for close friends and loved ones who exist in my immediate, real world.
I did this not for fear of how my opinions would be received.
I did this because the act of "expressing my opinion" online has started to feel arbitrary. The actual value of "having an opinion", in today's age, has felt tangibly diminished to me.
It's as if social media crashed the intellectual market. There's just so many of them (and so many of them are interchangeable) that I struggle to justify adding another (even my own), especially if I'm not certain of its true purpose.
Even though I've begun watching and commenting on pro-wrestling again, I'm still compelled to maintain some distance.
I keep this distance, in part, because I've become deeply skeptical of the system that perpetuates the "modern wrestling fan". I want to ensure that my priorities, my thoughts, and my beliefs are actually my own, and not the result of social media's sly, feel-good, fan-empowering, fame-promising, reassurance-seeking echo chamber.
This system nudges us, little by little, to think less and react more - to regard our automatic emotional responses as not only our best option, but our only option, and inherently worthy of a platform.
Having been removed from that system for several months, I’ve experienced an overall improvement in my health and happiness. The lesson, therefore, is simple and convincing; persistent exposure to social media, and modern fandoms, is not healthy (despite the upsides).
This revelation, which may seem reductive at a glance, has led me to question my own automatic emotional responses - especially to “hot button issues”. I now run my thoughts through a few self-imposed filters before "putting them out there” or making a firm decision with my feelings. This is not a form of willful subjugation - it’s a form of genuine consideration (something social media, due to its very nature, does not inspire).
I question my automatic emotional responses, “hot takes”, and “ideas for angles” (which previously took the form of Tweets and posts), because I suspect they have their origins not in my own soul, but in the manipulative code of The Internet Wrestling Community.
So I'm dumping as much bad stock as I can before it's too late.
I'm doing this so that I might develop (or return to) a more human, honest, and original system of introspection and expression.
And that's what has led me to the question: what is the purpose of an opinion?
If I’m going to find a healthier, more honest way of articulating my views, then I should know the actual reason those views exist in the first place. Otherwise they’re not worth expressing. If I don’t know why I have opinions and I don’t know why they’re worth expressing, then I’m just going to rehash social media's mistake of assuming Opinion contains intrinsic value.
Through the prism of the internet, opinions are boom sticks and spiked bats. They are our weapons in an apocalyptic zombie-brawl. Even the most open-minded, thoughtful, and "progressive" among us participates in this solipsistic battle royal - usually in the form of a MEGA THREAD. And it’s always tinted with hues of snarky self-assurance, an implicit boast of “look at how much better I am than you”. It’s an inescapable dynamic, because even if someone points out the destructive nature of that dynamic, via social media, they’re perpetuating the problem by similarly anointing themselves an “ultimate truth teller”.
This social media approach to opinion is a destructive, fundamentally inaccurate reading of opinion’s value.
Social media gets it wrong because it frames humans as machines with two, simple modes: right/wrong, happy/sad, despairing/hopeful, good/evil etc.
Human beings, in the real world, are not binary.
We are, each of us, nuanced, flawed, and difficult. That understanding of humanity answers my original question.
Removed from social media’s low expectations, humans do not have opinions so that we might bludgeon each other into submission. Even if our immediate goal is to win an argument, beneath that goal, cradling our consciousness, is an innocent urge for something deeper.
We have opinions so that we might connect to one another.
Connection is the true human currency, and it never loses value. If we have an opinion and we share it with another person, it’s because, in our gut, we yearn to be heard, felt, and understood. Even if the other person disagrees with us, we crave basic acknowledgement. Beyond that, we want to feel like we’re not alone, that the person across from us feels some of what we feel, and thinks some of what we think.
Opinions provide for that opportunity. Our ability to find common ground and defer to goodwill rather than descend into chaos is a uniquely benevolent human trait. We have the capacity to choose how we see each other and how we treat each other, even when faced with profound disagreement.
That quality should be remembered and encouraged, especially within a fan community that relies so heavily upon social media (like pro-wrestling’s). Social media conditions us to disregard our capacity to choose, and instead perform default, divisive behaviors.
In the real world, opinions can be effective human bridges if formed with consideration and expressed with respect. Under those conditions, they can inform, inspire, and enlighten.
When formed impatiently and expressed disrespectfully, as is the norm on social media, Opinion negates its true purpose and ceases to have any real-world value.
It divides in an effort to conquer.
And that’s why it always fails - Opinion is strategically stupid.
When entering an idealogical debate, do we actually want to convince other people we’re right? If so, what's the best way to do that? Is it to shame and belittle others whilst asserting our own moral and intellectual superiority?
That’s the great irony of social media. It professes to help people “express” and “find” themselves. It promises to "bring us together" by giving everyone a “platform". That’s impossible if opinions exist only to serve the interests of their owners, and the priorities of a system that commodifies debate and zombifies humanity. If we really want something more, something that lasts, something that's convincing and useful, we have to look elsewhere.
To learn about one another (the good, the bad, and the in-between), is the true value and purpose of opinion. If we frame our views in that context (the need to connect), and if approach debate not as a battle to be won, but an opportunity for growth, then we will get better.
We will become a real wrestling community.