Everyone has different opinions – everyone. My opinion isn't the same as yours and your opinions are different than your best friend's, and that's awesome. In fact, that's essential, because no one wants to be the same as everyone else. The internet itself fosters many opinions, because people feel comfortable saying and doing things they would never say or do with colleagues at work or friends at the bar. One thing you learn if you write a blog, share on Facebook, and tweet your heart out is that alternative opinions aren't always welcomed online, and that's a shame, because it really is okay to have different opinions – so maybe you should think twice before arguing with someone else's point of view!
1. Debate is Great
Different opinions foster debate – not abuse, but debate. And debate is great! If you disagree with someone's opinion about the best movie soundtrack or why a particular foreign policy bothers you, that's awesome. Debate it out, explain your points, listen to the other person's. This sparks conversation and dialogue, not just an extreme statement one way or the other. This works online and in real life, by the way – yay versatility!
2. No Tolerance for Intolerance
Do you want to be seen as intolerant? It's okay for people to have different opinions and it's okay for you to accept that because, otherwise, it does make you seem like you're intolerant of anyone else's beliefs. Making an extremist statement that something someone else likes or does is wrong or inferior doesn't make you right. Instead, it makes you seem controlling and not willing to listen to anyone else. That's not a good look.
3. Opinions Aren't Facts
There seems to be a prevailing idea, especially over blogs and social media, that opinions are facts. They're not, they're kind of the complete opposite! I see this everywhere, even among family members, and I'm sure you do too. Isn't it frustrating? Opinions are simply opinions – your thoughts and feelings, which apply only to you, no one else. You may think Coldplay is the best band in the entire world, only to have a friend continuously tell you how wrong you are, Coldplay sucks, you should know better. Not only is that wrong, it's actually...
4. The Bullying Balance
I don't like to throw around the word “bullying” too much, because it's a serious problem and it needs to be taken just as seriously. Still, sometimes different opinions lead to borderline bullying behavior, and it's so unnecessary! Calling someone stupid, a bad writer, a worthless person, or in any way demeaning them because they don't share your opinion is rude and hurtful – plus it says more about you than the object of the abuse. While sharing your thoughts is perfectly fine, even welcomed, you should never put someone down because they were moved by a particular movie scene or enjoyed a certain book, just because you disagree. They're allowed to have an opinion, and so are you.
5. A New Point of View
If you take the time to listen to someone else's opinion, even if you don't agree with it at first, it can ultimately introduce you to a new point of view. You may even see things from a new perspective. I once got into a very heated debate with someone who insisted that she knew I could not be a lesbian, because I'd dated men before. That seems like a rather inauspicious beginning, but she actually listened when I explained my personal journey, and it changed her opinion. That's a big example, but even if you, say, hate Henry Rollins or the Ramones or a certain politician, actually listening to someone else who likes all those people might at least open your mind a little.
6. You're Not Always Right or Wrong
Your opinion isn't right. It isn't wrong either. It's your opinion, and you're allowed to have it. But since it's not fact and millions of other people will disagree with you and a million more will share your feelings, you're neither right nor wrong. You're just expressing the viewpoint that works for your lifestyle and belief system – and if you enjoy the ability to do that, remember to extend the same courtesy to the people around you.
7. From Bland and Boring to Brilliant
It's trite but true: if everyone shared the same opinion, the world would become a very boring place. Rejoice in the fact that you have your own opinion, your best friend has hers, your boyfriend has his, I have mine, my BFF Jennifer has another, and the President has one of his own, too. Be glad you live in a world that encourages courtesy, thoughtful debate, and freedom of speech, and take advantage of it. Don't hate on someone else, don't go after them, don't rudely belittle or demean them because you think you have the only valid opinion in the world. You don't.
Censorship is never fun and you should never have to hold in your opinions. You should, however, remember that there's a fine line between debate and merely bashing someone else because their thoughts or opinions don't line up with yours. It's more fun to share and discuss your opinions than it is to beat someone over the head with them and make yourself look intolerant, right? Has anyone ever belittled you because your opinion is different – or have you ever been intolerant of someone else's opinion?