The year is 2021. Seemingly everyone over the age of 10 has at least one of the following: a phone, a computer, or access to countless news sources both digitally and in print. Anyone can share their opinions anywhere, whether it’s through social media, a column in a newspaper, or day-to-day conversations. In the past, it seemed to be a pretty even mix of opinions about pop culture, sports, economics, and politics. However, over the years, people have become increasingly more comfortable sharing their political opinions.
I was only eight years old when the 2012 election took place; in other words, my classmates and I were too young to have a nuanced stance on politics. Of course there were those one or two kids on the playground who said verbatim the things that they had heard from their parents the night before, but for the most part, we cared more about what had happened in the latest episode of Good Luck Charlie or how amazing we thought Taylor Swift’s latest album was.
During the 2016 election, we were 12 years old, so more of us cared and kept up with politics. However, a large majority of our opinions were either still developing or nonexistent. We collectively realized that we all needed to continue to educate ourselves on politics and gain confidence in sharing our opinions. By the time the 2020 election came around, seemingly everyone had an opinion, and most people felt the need to share it with the world. Actors and singers were no longer just there to do their jobs; they were and are now influencers. They encouraged people, advocated for certain candidates, and spread resources to help others register to vote. So much attention was put on this election, causing it to have the highest number of voters in American history.
In the year 2020, so much happened, calling celebrities to use their voices and their platforms. Influencers brought it upon themselves to use their large platforms to educate others about the spread of the coronavirus and how to stay safe. But here’s my issue with this: they aren’t all practicing what they preached. You can still see videos on The Hollywood Fix of celebrities going to Saddle Ranch in large groups instead of staying home or social distancing because apparently it’s more important to ride a mechanical bull and eat a steak than it is to stay healthy in their minds. But we streamed their songs, watched their movies, interacted with their content, and so gave them their platform. Yes, I do think that they should continue to advocate toward their audiences even if they don’t take the advice themselves, but they do need to be reminded of the consequences of not taking their own advice. Younger fans will see them not doing the right thing, and then think, “Oh, I don’t need to either if they aren’t going to,” but this sends a bad message to them, reflecting badly on the influencer. Yes, people do get “cancelled” for doing things like that, but cancel culture is one of the most toxic things in society today, doing more harm than good.
In June 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement gained recognition after the death of George Floyd. Many influencers and celebrities spoke up because it is a cause close to their hearts. People of color have positively affected so many lives through music, movies, books, and many other forms. But not everyone was able to recognize that, resulting in some people spreading the phrase “All Lives Matter.” Billie Eilish explained the difference between the two ideas to millions of people by saying, “If someone’s house was on fire and someone is stuck in the house, are you gonna make the fire department go to every other house on the block first because all houses matter?” People used their platforms in many different ways by sharing petitions and spreading resources, but Eilish took a different route by educating others. I do think that this demonstrates the positives of giving artists a platform, but it’s that very same platform that also spreads negativity and phrases that work to dismantle movements (like “all lives matter”).
In November 2020, Harry Styles graced the cover of Vogue for the December 2020 issue, wearing various outfits including a skirt and a ballgown. As a longtime fan of Harry, I knew that this is very on brand and he looked good in the clothes, so I didn’t see a problem, but Candace Owens did not feel the same way. Owens took it to Twitter to criticize the cover as she believes that we need to “bring back manly men,” but what she failed to realize is that this isn’t anything new for Harry. He wears what he thinks looks good, not just what a “man should wear.” Personally, I think that Owens should not have used her platform the way that she did. It’s one thing to praise Harry for breaking gender norms and normalizing not confining certain clothes to a certain gender, but her shaming him instead for not being “manly” enough seems more like a personal attack than a critique of his clothing choice.
Opinions are everywhere. Social media, the news, and even award shows push what people think to try to influence our opinions. Personally, I think sharing opinions is a good, healthy thing for us, but if an opinion is controversial, you should think through the best way to communicate it without offending people who have differing views. With the rise of social media and technology, it has become infinitely easier to share your opinions with large numbers of people all at once, all over the world. You click a button, type whatever you want to say, and send it to the world without even thinking about the consequences or what other people might think or how it might offend certain groups.
While at times I might not want to hear why someone thinks that “Ariana Grande is overrated,” I remember that it is important to listen to everyone’s opinions respectfully. If we can’t listen to other people who have differing views on even the simplest of things, how can we be expected to collaborate in the future? How can we grow as people and understand all angles of an idea? I believe that there are a few simple steps to follow that would be the best ways to talk about controversial and progressive topics politely. Separate the idea from the person. Just because they disagree with you on one idea doesn’t mean you should automatically cut them off. Listen respectfully and let them finish their thoughts instead of cutting them off. And lastly, treat others the way you would like to be treated. Other people’s opinions can influence how we think, and even change our own. As long as it’s done respectfully, sharing your opinions should be normal, and you shouldn’t be afraid to say what you think about a certain topic. I mean, I just did.