The Conversation Needs You.
Here’s why you should speak up, even if everybody else is already doing so.
Most information nowadays is noise. Social media has given us all a platform, and it’s almost impossible to figure out which ones are worth paying attention to. Given this information overload, it’s natural to feel like there’s no point in speaking up yourself. After all, somebody out there must already have said what you’re thinking, right?
Actually not really. Yes, it’s true that with the billions of people out there, some number of them must share your opinion and some will even have taken the time to say so. But to think this means you can leave the responsibility of expressing your opinion to other people is to miss a few important points about the value of your own voice.
1. Your perspective is unique.
The first point to be made is pretty well-worn but that doesn’t make it any less true; your voice is unique. The collection of experiences and viewpoints that have led you to believe the things you believe is yours and yours alone. Which means that you are the only person that can communicate them to others.
Informing people isn’t simply a matter of stating facts. It’s stating them in the right way, imbuing them with your feelings, having them resonate in the person who hears them. Staying silent means that your feelings and experiences are missing from the conversation when they might be exactly what’s needed to help someone see an issue more clearly.
2. Your voice can change the perception of consensus.
We tend to judge an issue on the aggregate of the opinions we see and hear. On any issue, there will be a vocal minority pushing a particular point of view and a silent majority which may or may not agree with what that minority is saying. People tend to judge entire groups on what the loudest voices are saying, and if they don’t see enough counterexamples, that judgement sticks.
This is the main reason why political discourse and identity politics feel so hopelessly out of control at the moment. Each side points to the most insane, extreme voices on the other side, and as a result, they come to believe that there’s no way to bridge the gap between their positions
The people who stay silent are the ones most likely to have a moderate, nuanced view. They’re the people who are most able to listen to different viewpoints, and ultimately, the most likely to be able to see ways to solve problems and move forward. If this is you, the world badly needs your voice.
3. It helps you organise your thoughts
If you’re worried that your opinions are poorly-formed or inelegant, this is even more reason to write them down. The clarity that comes from thinking about what you believe with enough care to put it into words, is the reason why many writers write in the first place. You might find that you hadn’t thought things all the way through, or somebody might reply to what you wrote and tell you they think you’re wrong. This too is part of the clarification process.
Even if you don’t put yourself out there, someone will probably ask you what you think one day. Rather than timidly waving your hands and claiming “not to know much about it”, wouldn’t it be better if you were able to express yourself clearly and convincingly? Especially in this climate where not having an opinion is treated the same way as having the wrong one.
Now more than ever, we need people’s voices. We need people to think more deeply. We need real experiences and thoughts rather than cynical attempts to stir up outrage or mindless expressions of hatred. Discourse won’t improve unless we improve it. For that to happen we don’t necessarily need more voices, but we may well need yours.