We are living in a very unusual era where through social media, everyone can have a voice and everyone can have an audience. People are using virtual venues as places to tout their beliefs, their ideas, their dreams, their criticisms and their opinions. I love that we live in a country that cherishes free speech and that now people have the opportunity to express their voices through blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc. and can let the world know where they stand on issues and how they feel about matters that are important to them.

This is empowering for people and can create possibilities to impact issues with broader public input than ever existed before. I can simply click a like button or be another viewer of a YouTube video and my behavior is calculated as a valuable statistic representing social interest in a particular matter. This is an incredible social development that has allowed individuals who once may have been considered a hermit or a sufferer of social anxiety to have a safe way of participating in conversations.

Those points reflect just some of the many positive outcomes of this phase of social media. I want to talk about another aspect of it though that troubles me. There is often a lack of filtering, reflection and fact-based knowledge informing the comments of individuals who abuse this great virtual vehicle of communication. I am going to say something that might sound harsh… The fact that you feel something strongly neither makes it true nor is it a sign that what you’re experiencing should be expressed as an opinion.

A gut feeling is not necessarily a sign that what you feel in reaction to something is accurate.

I often hear people say things like “But I can feel it in my gut so it must be right”. A gut feeling is not necessarily a sign that what you feel in reaction to something is accurate. Actually what you are feeling or perceiving may be the result of things that have happened to you in your past and may actually have no relevance to the matter at hand or be a reasonable interpretation to an issue or an event.

Prior to the week-end I posted a blog on the danger of drug induced psychoses related to marijuana and a few individuals responded to my fact driven piece by describing it as “BS”. What made it BS? They didn’t agree with it based on what? A feeling? They want to legalize marijuana and this interferes with their argument? Or maybe their own personal experiences smoking dope and not having a psychotic break felt like justification enough? If you walk across thin ice and don’t fall through does that mean it wasn’t dangerous?

One of my amazing consultants responded to these negative reactions, commenting that we are interested in hearing from both sides regarding this piece. At first I thought his response was reasonable and balanced but then today I thought, “There aren’t two sides to some matters.” Sometimes there’s fact and sometimes there’s fiction and sometimes there aren’t “shades of gray”.

Everyone has a right to an opinion but that does not mean that every opinion is “RIGHT” or deserves equal consideration.

I’m actually not interested in the public expressions of personal opinions that are not founded on objective truths but rather on distorted subjective realities or moralities unless it’s in my therapy office and then I can work with them to understand why they hold these views and reflect on these feelings in a meaningful way to uncover their roots. I am also not interested in valuing emotionally driven, agenda driven or unfounded comments equally to those that are based on sound reason, knowledge, logic and facts. Everyone has a right to an opinion but that does not mean that every opinion is “RIGHT” or deserves equal airtime or consideration.

Not all opinions are created equal.

What I find even more disturbing are celebrities who have the largest social media followings of all, making dramatic statements about things they know nothing about. People then retweet them, “share” their comments with others and suddenly a wave of influence grows that is not founded on expertise, wisdom, experience or meaningful knowledge but on the limited perspective of someone who happens to have social currency. I would not go to a hair salon to have my teeth cleaned regardless of how famous or reputable that salon was because they know nothing about teeth cleaning. Why would I allow the perspective of a person who has no authority on a topic to influence my thinking?

Your voice and your words are a gift. They are at the essence of your power. Use them wisely!

I do not in any way want to discourage people from expressing their voices. I want to encourage them to take advantage of their possibilities for influence by endorsing views, opinions, ideas, actions etc. as well as sharing their own but please do it respectfully, carefully, thoughtfully and with a conscience. And please, if you don’t know about something or you’re not sure, don’t just go along with it, do your research from trusted diverse sources, ask questions or simply remain silent.

Your voice and your words are a gift. They are at the essence of your power. Use them wisely!