Why You Shouldn't Unfriend Annoyingly Opinionated People On Facebook

by Miki Ding

As a fairly progressive young Facebook user, I am always tempted to delete some of the hard right-winged friends I have.

But the ability to delete people you don’t like off Facebook and filter your searches so that you only find things you agree with has a largely negative effect on our ability to learn from others.

Eli Pariser warns in his TED Talk that these “filter bubbles” go against the purpose of the mass information age of the Internet:

I think we really need the Internet to be that thing we all dreamed of it being. We need it to connect us all together. We need it to introduce us to new ideas and new people and different perspectives. And it's not going to do that if it leaves us all isolated in a web of one.

When we avoid ideas that are uncomfortable, we create an “us versus them” mentality.

We group people on our feed into allies and enemies, and rarely engage with those we disagree with because we no longer have to.

By simply editing out those who are not on our side, we begin to create a false world where we are surrounded by people who only confirm what we believe. We become more and more confident that we are right.

However, Philip Tetlock argues that those who most believe they are right are usually wrong. In his study, he asked over 300 political experts to make predictions about the world.

Over the next 20 years, these questions were tracked.

Most of these experts (96 percent of them) had postgraduate training and thought they knew more than they actually did. Their predictions were “not much better than those of dart-throwing chimps.”

A study by the CXO advisory group also covered more than 6,000 predictions made by stock-market experts over several years, and found an overall accuracy rate of 47.4 percent.

These smart people would have done better if they had guessed or conceded that they do not know. But despite having incredible knowledge, experts begin to lose their edge when they refuse to believe they may be wrong.

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner argue in "Think Like A Freak," that “one reason may be that smart people simply have more experience with feeling they are right, and therefore have greater confidence in their knowledge, no matter which side of an issue they’re on."

But being confident that you are right is not the same as being right.

Think back to what Philip Tetlock -- who studies the predictability ability of political pundits -- found to be a sure sign of a bad predictor.

We must take care that our lives remain filled with those who challenge us.

The world is not made to cater to us, so our Facebook feed shouldn’t either.

While you must correct the people who have incorrect facts, you must also allow the people who have what you deem “incorrect opinions” to speak.

They are the ones who push you to develop your argument more thoroughly. You should never be threatened by someone who disagrees with you.

If your opinions are valid, the facts will back them up.

If not, you know you need to improve them or change your mind.

Friedrich Nietzsche denounced people who were sure of their opinions, saying “Convictions are greater enemies to truth than lies.”

See, it’s easy to have an opinion about something.

It’s hard to say you don’t know or are not sure. It’s much more admirable to be open to listening to what other people are saying without being hindered by the pride of already having chosen a side.

When you listen to others -- even people you cannot imagine agreeing with -- you’ll find that people don’t try to be ignorant, dumb or evil, despite what you may think.

They just have different points of views than you do. After all, nobody thinks he or she is wrong.

While I don't agree with increasing the military, if you grew up as a military child, you might believe doing so means security for your dad’s job.

If you grew up on food stamps, it might have been the difference between having to starve or having to steal.

If you are Jewish, you may decry Palestinians for what they did to your family.

If you were born out of rape, you may believe that each person who supports abortion would have supported your death.

Each person having his or her own unique perspective is each a voice that allows you to understand a problem more thoroughly.

You must protect everyone’s right to express his or her thoughts, especially when they go against what you think.

It is not generous to do so. It is necessary to do so if we want to evolve as a society.