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Everyone’s Opinion Is Not of Equal Value?

This article is inspired by a comment by Phil Friedman. He commented on LinkedIn on the share of my post Being a Victim of Illusory Superiority published on BIZCATALYST 360°. I thought of his words long after I read them.

A major danger today, especially on social media, is the wrong-headed belief that, because everyone gets to publish their opinion, everyone’s opinion is equally valuable. At times, that is simply benign arrogance, but at others, it is pernicious falsification.

–Phil Friedman

Phil’s articles on LinkedIn and beBee have stretched my thinking about many subjects. I wish I had a philosophy teacher like him while I was in high school and later at university (civil engineering students also learn on Logic and Ethics).

I was taught to respect everyone’s opinion until trying to impose their opinions on others. I do believe that everyone has a right to express their own opinion, even wrong and misguided. Phil’s words got me thinking not only about the value of opinions but also about the harmfulness of misinformed opinions shared on social media platforms, which can lead to wrong conclusions and even turn into real-world violence.

An opinion is a personal belief, judgment, and decision about something, and we can change it when having more knowledge or evidence about a particular subject. If so, what causes people to hold on to their beliefs, even when faced with abundant evidence to the contrary?

What makes people accept someone else’s opinion that is not justified with evidence or facts? Or an opinion that is blind to logic?

If everyone’s opinion is of equal value, does it mean that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge, to quote Isaac Asimov?

What is the value of opinions shared deliberately to spread false information and fake, even reconstructed evidence? That question got me thinking about the freedom of speech—a democratic principle that protects the right to express opinions.

If those whose opinions might be harmful have the right to share them, and we need to protect those rights, then I ask, what protects us from those harmful opinions and their possible detrimental outcomes?

It is not about being intolerant toward others’ opinions. Dissenting views and opinions encourage us to test and refine our own views and beliefs, but unreasonable, unsupported, or outright harmful opinions are not equally valuable.

Instead of further lamenting – after all, it is just my opinion – I would like to hear your thoughts on the above questions.

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Lada Prkić
Lada Prkićhttps://www.bebee.com/@lada-prkic
Lada Prkić is a Civil Engineer and has a lot of professional experience in various fields of Civil Engineering. She works at the University of Split on the capital construction projects at the University Campus and beyond. Besides performing responsible tasks as a Project Manager, and Head of Capital Investment Office, Lada became passionate about blogging. She writes about civil engineering, architecture, geometry, networks on social media, and human relations. Lada lives with her family in Split, Croatia, a beautiful 2,000 years old city on the coast of the Adriatic sea.

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8 CONVERSATIONS

  1. I do believe every opinion matters, even for those whose perspectives contradict our own. The problem we face on social media is not so much that everyone has an opinion, but it is the toxic, cruel and intolerant ways in which we deliver our ideas. Everyone is cut from a different cloth, so everyone will naturally have his or her own opinion on any given topic. It’s how we articulate those ideas that matter most. I’d say a large majority have no formal training in writing or expressing their viewpoints. They spew what they hear on the news, on social media, and from their inner circles in life. They don’t do research and they can’t formulate a singular thought which is original to their own experience. That is the problem, they don’t know how to substantiate their claims, accusations or positions with fact. Even some qualified writers have a tendency to leave their brains on a shelf from time to time. Social media is nothing less than the wild-wild west. It is the last frontier where anything goes… good, bad or ugly. The best we can do is accept their existence and look beyond their limited capacity for truth. Express your own logic to the best of your ability and know with confidence that you are writing from a position of strength. Anything less is a waste of good brain cells…

    • Aaron, thanks for another on-the-topic and thoughtful comment. Your definition of social media as the wild-wild west is one of the best I’ve heard. Although I gave up looking for an explanation for people’s behaviour on social media, there were times (such as writing this article) when I asked myself some questions though knowing there are no easy answers.

  2. The very first thought that came up for me here was the word “Belonging”. We don’t change opinion unless we first feel validated. Belonging is more important in the Maslow hierarchy than anything intellectual.

    The next thought was that having faulty opinions take over mindsets is not a social media invention. Galileo could testify to that. Heinrich Schliemann believed that an ancient myth was more than just that and dug out Troy. 140 years after the publication of “On the Origin of Species” the Vatican found that there was probably some truth to Darwin’s narrative.

    What is common between then and now is that there are powerful interests supporting the faulty narrative. First order critical thinking is to understand the narratives. Yonason Goldson would probably advocate for understanding all the naarratives, because if we can’t argue our own point, how do we know it is true? 2nd order is to figure out who benefits how from perpetuating lies.

    • Thank you, Charlotte, for making an effort to comment here and on LinkedIn. I watched the video by Yonason Goldson. Thanks for the link. Understanding all narratives is of utmost importance in making more ethical decisions about difficult subjects. There’s no doubt about that. What we need is the willingness to examine subjects from all the different sides, and critical thinking to understand the issue and separate truth from fiction. Easier said than done. 🙂
      But also, some opinions don’t need further examinations to separate truth from fiction. Like when someone wrongly believes that Earth is flat. Nevertheless, I still want to know how he/she came to that conclusion, what arguments support such beliefs and how they defend such opinions.

  3. Being a Civil Engineer I’m sure you’re involved in some design/build sessions and maybe formal design/build or pre-construction Partnering Sessions (one of my hats: teampartnering.com). As a third-party neutral it is my job to listen and discern which is important to pause and discuss and which needs acknowledgement in order just to move on. Every voice may need to be heard, a principle of partnering, though not every voice is necessary. A quick active listening response just lets them know they are being heard. In-person sessions have evolved to virtual session now with the pandemic and construction still needing to get done.

    What I highlight early on is a couple of points of order; ego becomes wego and ‘jobarchy’ rules. The first makes immediate sense I’m sure. The second means that the job is the boss and everybody wins by simply meeting the requirements with an attitude of collaboration. The tools to accomplish this are develop by each partnership on the fly, though using the foundations of the process to craft a specific charter with goals and objectives accompanied by a code of ethics. It’s an exciting process and much less stressful than it was when I began nearly 20 years ago. To some, it’s like stepping into the middle of chaos to create order. Life is kinda like that, eh?

    • Zen, thank you for reading and commenting here on the site. 🙂 As a Project Manager, I always listen to opinions of my team members. That’s why your words resonate with me: “Every voice may need to be heard, a principle of partnering, though not every voice is necessary. A quick active listening response just lets them know they are being heard.” I would only add that in project management every “voice” is necessary and important for solving difficult construction problems.

  4. Lada – I applaud you taking others’ opinions seriously, thinking them through within the context of your own, and asking the “line in the sand” question – how far do we let opinions that are damaging or destructive continue? Until social media, that was not a pressing question. But today, it becomes more so. There is no easy answer and I am so stinking tired of people who have answers. Thank you for having the courage to state your opinion AND solicit feedback.

    • Thank you so much, Carol. Many opinions voiced from public platforms are unfounded and consequently harmful but nevertheless accepted. They are shared not only because of ignorance or lack of education but deliberately. Apparently, there are no easy answers regarding human nature. As someone said, human nature reveals its dark side on social media.

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