Blog and opinion
14 May 2019 • Dave van Ginhoven
Coffee isn’t the only thing that needs a filter
I had a hard time writing a blog this month because I didn’t have any strong feelings or opinions about anything apart from the latest season of Game of Thrones. Then I got to thinking that maybe it’s okay not to have an opinion on absolutely every little thing.
Being a teacher means being confronted with a lot of opinions. That’s good because education is about exchanging points of view, but it can go too far sometimes.
Here’s an example. Being a teacher also means that I require massive, regular doses of caffeine in order to stand up straight and the need for regular injections of this particular performance-enhancing drug has caused me to reflect on the “small talk” people engage in while getting or drinking coffee, because it’s not as small as it used to be.
More than once recently, I’ve had conversations about coffee preferences where I’ve mentioned that I have one of those machines that uses capsules, only to have the other person recoil in righteous indignation and respond with something along the lines of “oh, I’d NEVER get a machine like that. They don’t recycle the capsules and it’s SO WASTEFUL.” Every time, I can see that it makes the other person feel good and I suspect that they think they’re encouraging sustainability, but really they’re just making me feel judged even though I just like coffee and have never personally suffocated a sea turtle in a puddle of plastic soup.
When I was growing up, my mother taught me that part of having ‘good manners’ meant understanding that not everyone needed to hear my opinion all the time. I got the same instruction from Marlon Brando in The Godfather. But it seems like times have changed and almost any conversation can result in a serving of unsolicited opinions with a side order or moral superiority.
I suspect it’s the social media that did this to us by setting us all up with a soapbox that encourages us share everything that’s on our minds and rewards us with likes and comments if our thoughts meet an ever-evolving criteria for what types of content are socially desirable. Oddly, this can result in behaviour that isn’t desirable, because the pressure to have something to say all the time, combined with the ease with which we can share it with the world can cause people to speak without thinking in a way that would have given my mother a meltdown, whether they’re talking politics or commenting on celebrity tragedies.
Now I get the feeling that I’m seeing the same types of reactions “IRL” and it worries me, because there are a lot of important issues worth talking about – more important than my coffee capsules – but we can’t have constructive conversations about them if we’re just venting dramatic opinions all. Whether we’re talking about the future of democracy in a classroom or discussing our beverage preferences in the staffroom, I wish people would stop and think about whether their unvarnished opinions is going to be helpful before sharing it.
When people post pictures on social media, they like to brag about using #nofilters, but when it comes to opinions, I think using a few filters would be a good idea.
But that’s just one guy talking.
Dave van Ginhoven is a senior lecturer at European Studies, which he’s happy to promote to anyone who will listen. Before that he used to be a journalist and a Canadian. He loves to talk, but don’t take him too seriously. He’s only one guy.