You’re scrolling through your Facebook feed when you stumble upon a controversial video shared by your lab partner from your sophomore year of high school. They had received over 40 comments from adversaries who evidently think their opinion is superior and have a little too much free time during their lunch break. 

As your lab partner defends a recent political progression, he gets upset when people comment angrily on the link he shared, and he defends his right to free speech. The worst part isn’t that he shared something that might make you cringe or that he’s partaking in the fruitless comments below it, but that he is surprised when people challenge his view.

And here’s where so many people are wrong.

There’s something very admirable about a person who stands up to express what they believe in. But doing this alone isn’t the holy grail of achievement because it is missing a crucial element – the ability to look upon the opinions of others that differ from your own and respect them. This can be a flaw in the mind of an activist because regardless of having science, logic and reason for support, to ostracize the opposite side places you above them. It’s worse if you write off anyone with an opposing view because it’s not your view.

But it’s someone else’s view, and to attack someone and put down what they believe in because it’s not what you believe in doesn’t do any good. The noblest thing you can do is to look upon another’s position with respect. The best thing you can do is to merely ask them why they feel that way, how they got to that system of beliefs and weigh how it differs from your own. 

You don’t get to shun someone’s ideas because they are not your own. That’s not how the world works.

You can interrogate, try to understand and push others to consider doing the same. Maybe when we all know all the facts, we can get on the same page. Maybe when we all realize that posting a controversial video only invites discord, with each side either deciding to fight or electing to stay quiet. Maybe when we figure out that your list of Facebook friends, the nation and the world is at a stalemate, with two ardently passionate sides pushing hard in opposition, we can stop lashing out at people with the opposing view. Or even better, not seek out power in numbers but power within ourselves. 

Sharing a Facebook post to spread awareness and expression is more than fine, but attacking someone’s opinions and shunning them for having a perspective we dislike will not create progression. This will only slow our advancement.

The world has seen many great revolutions from people outside, marching and holding signs, but no history book details the grand efforts made by people slamming each other in Internet comments. So stop feeling surprised after the videos you share make waves, stop posting statues to egg on the comments of your opponents, and should you find yourself with a unique and different point of view, get out there and fight for it, waving signs and marching tall to make real change.