Death by Opinions

Socrates, Modern Day and the Space Between Black and White

Photo Credit: Me

Way back in the day, I’m talking like 2,400 years ago there was this dude, Socrates. Now, supposedly the story goes that Socrates would hangout in Athens and teach philosophy to people on the street.

He believed human choices were driven by desire for happiness. (I just assumed this was common knowledge but apparently it originated from somewhere).

Socrates would eventually hook up with Plato and become his teacher.

Socrates may have started it all but Plato would be the guy to go on and open the first academy (university) in the Western world. I’m not sure if it was because Socrates was sentenced to death by poison and wasn’t around to do it or if Plato was more of a go-getter.

Every story has a gray area.

I’ve read Five Great Dialogues of Plato. I own the original 1942 edition which is currently going for $1.99 on Amazon, because that’s how we should treat all 75 year old books. We should sell them on Amazon for $1.99.

Let’s break down the true meaning of philosophy. There is the standard dictionary definition (the study of knowledge, reality, et cetera) and then there’s the real deal. Synonyms of the word philosophy are thinking, thought and reasoning. All three are consistent foundations of opinion.

Now here we are, 2,400 years later drowning in the sound of opinions, a buzz taking over the white space of our sanity.

Thanks, Socrates.

2,006 years go by and enter the first ever published newspaper, Relation published in 1605.

By the 1930's the livelihood of print newspapers were threatened by radio and television. In order to keep newspapers a float the first opinion section was published in the New York Evening World. It was largely based off of film and book reviews.

The opinion pages caught on as the latest craze and continued to surge for decades. In September of 1970 the New York Times published the first ever Op-ed (Opposite the Editorial page). It began with TV reviews but over the course of the next four decades the Op-ed would become opinion articles based on factual evidence, education and journalism. Op-ed journalists would earn 47 of the 122 Pulitzer Prizes awarded to New York Times.

In 1990 Tim Berners-Lee invents the World Wide Web and enter the internet.

Thanks to the internet we have access to a billion people’s opinions (fucked up or not) 24/7. We also have the ability to vomit our own opinions onto internet (fucked up or not) 24/7. Every opinion we take in sways our own opinions. Every opinion we put out sways the opinions of others. Therefore creating a cesspool of misinformation.

Here’s the thing about opinions, they’re thoughts and reasoning. They’re philosophical and driven by emotion.

Now, with social media we’ve opened Pandora’s Box of misinformation and emotion driven opinions. Has anyone been on Facebook lately? Is it just my feed or is it trending? Everyone has an opinion about everything and we’re all rather pissed about it.

Using Facebook as an example, during the decline of cat memes and Sponge Bob videos I decided I could no longer take in the opinions of others and in turn, I would no longer share my own opinions. I discovered that opinions sent me spiraling down a dark hole and at the bottom were the five stages of grief.

Denial- That mother fucker did not just say that.

Anger- That mother fucker did just say that.

Bargaining- Will you shut the fuck up?

Depression- Woes me, these mother fuckers are unbearable.

Acceptance- Not much I can do about it.

It’s an ongoing cycle of saga, and not surprisingly, unhealthy. I opted to no longer participate. Out of 411 friends on my list I now see only 54 in my feed. (Thank you, Facebook for creating the unfollow option). The two most valuable things I’ve learned from doing this is 1) I feel a great deal less stressed, 2) I’m equally as ignorant as the opinions I want no part of.

November 2017 and enter the Vlogbrothers, my inspiration for researching and writing this story… article… opinion piece?

In a recent Vlogbrothers episode, John Green tells us that after spending a month on tour together he and his brother, Hank Green realize they have way too many opinions. In efforts to change this they’ve decided to abandon one opinion every day until they’re left with only, “Really core important opinions.”

Could you imagine a world, an internet, an anything actually, where people only shared their really core important opinions? The sanity, the progress, the unity, that’s what I envision.

I’d like to think when Socrates began teaching philosophy he never intended for opinions to become misinformed and emotionally driven.

Although, I feel confident our Founding Fathers would be drinking Xanax straight from the bottle if they were to see what America has become (opinion).

Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we thought they would (fact).

Regardless, there is a valuable lesson for all of us hiding somewhere within the gray area of every story, but that’s just a matter of my opinion.

Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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