Not all people like chocolate flavour – shocking I know – but not all people do. Some prefer strawberry, or vanilla, and that is okay as long as they’re not stabbing your chocolate cake. However, telling someone that they should like that chocolate cake just because you think it’s the most delicious food ever made, is not okay.
Before limiting opinions to cake, let us go back to the basics and understand how opinions are inflicted upon us, and why do we humans feel so entitled to them?
Cannibalism, over 30 thousand years ago, was a practiced ritual, accepted among its members and seen as fitting and proper. It is impossible to imagine nowadays, cannibalism being a norm in progressive societies. We depart, based on the latter, from the observation that groups exert profound effects on their members, to decide which practices are socially acceptable, and which are not. Those effects are known as opinions.
In a study on social pressure and opinions, it was concluded that when individuals are confronted with opinions contrary to their own, many would alter their judgments to views of the majority of the experts. Meaning, that under social pressure, one’s opinion is bound to shift or undergo a certain change.
In our digital age, it is impossible to discuss “social pressure” without mentioning social media. Not only have they become an essential part of our daily lives, but it is “important” for some users to have a social media presence and to share their lifestyle choices with their followers. Some would interpret this habit of sharing private and sometimes intimate moments, as an attempt to seek approval of those around. It does not prevent the audiences, however, from sharing their “opinions” on what they see.
When exposed to larger audiences, people tend to be subject to more criticism and have others’ opinions inflicted on them. Moreover, being a woman and a social figure who openly expresses herself in a conservative society, does not make the matter of others projecting and inflicting their opinions any easier. Twenty-year-old Algerian makeup artist, influencer, blogger, and Youtuber, and one of the most prominent female figures in the Algerian social media scene sat down with EMPWR to express her thoughts on the subject.
When displayed “unfiltered,” Malak would often find herself on the receiving end of boundless criticism, which more times than often, escalated to cyberbullying, all for not “conforming,” or simply sharing her minds and views. “With time,” Malak says, “I learned that when you’re a public figure you cannot be 100% your true self and say whatever you want. You have to be unbiased and never share your personal beliefs or you will be judged so hard.”
One of the many times under attack, Malak posted –as per usual– a make-up look during the month of Ramadan, a month observed by Muslims to fast and worship God. Shortly after her post, Malak began receiving comments accusing her of being blasphemous and questioning whether she was Muslim or not, as well as reproaching her of not “respecting” the sanctity of the month, albeit the picture not being revealing nor provocative.
The pressure exerted by her group of followers and the replies in the comments section pushed Malak to delete her post in order to avoid backlash. “I tend to never comment or mention controversial topics that might disrespect the society I’m living in” Malak commented when asked about any recent society-deemed controversial acts.
Picture posted by Malak – Archived on her Instagram.
Public opinions, more times than often, affect how people react on social media.
So, when are you “not” entitled to your opinion?
In an article for The Conversation, Patrick Stokes, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy says that “The problem with I’m entitled to my opinion is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like.” While the latter statement can be valid –you technically can say and think whatever you want– an opinion is usually a judgment that is not conclusive, nor drawn from a true statement or fact. Meaning one cannot simply have an “opinion” on a matter that is scientifically proven, like the water’s boiling point, for example, it is impossible for you to have an opinion that says otherwise.
Opinions are the result of tastes and preferences, that one develops with time. Understandably, opinions extend to political views, personal lifestyle, religious choices, etc, on which Professor Stokes comments “You can’t really argue about the first kind of opinion (personal preferences). I’d be silly to insist that you’re wrong to think strawberry ice cream is better than chocolate.” In other words, you cannot possibly, nor should you, have an opinion on the way someone chooses to lead their personal life, especially if no harm is done.
But wait, how harmful can someone’s opinion of you be?
Your parents have probably expressed their discontent at some point, over something you have done, maybe an outfit, the way you put on your makeup, or simply your way of talking. You may also have been subject to your friends’ opinions of you when you wore that one outfit your best friend told you not to and ended up being ridiculed for it. The effect your close circle friends and family have on you, may not affect you as much as it would when exposed to more “opinions.” Now, opinions are not always negative, but as previously mentioned, can stir one’s mind and shift their views. This can lead you to subconsciously conform and submit to group pressure. When exposed to a larger, more diverse network, of hundreds of minds, also known as social media, it gradually becomes harder to adjust and keep up with everybody’s expectations.
Malak says on this issue, that people’s constant criticism often gave her anxiety and depression, and people’s opinions of her turned from simple negative remarks to cyberbullying. It even pushed her to deactivate her social media outlet, at a certain point, for three months to distance herself from the negative atmosphere.
In her Instagram stories, Malak also used to address her followers as though they were her friends, she says : “people didn’t like it. They tried to make me fit into their molds, which made my mental health go downhill.” Some people tend to be reckless on social media, behind phone screens, unaware of the impact one small word can make, “I used to think I’m not good enough because no matter what I did I was always getting criticized,” Malak continues.
How can you face it?
As a social media persona, Malak’s strategy to face the waves of criticism is to focus on her content and to be herself, “but in a limited way,” she says. Having grown a fan base of supporters and fans who appreciate her work and content, has helped Malak adapt to the toxic social media atmosphere, “Lately I receive mostly positivity in the comments section and I’m so blessed for that.”
One lesson she learned, after being a public persona for three years, is that “you cannot please everyone.” “social media,” according to the beauty guru, “gathers many mindsets and, as I grew up and became an adult, I realized that I should be my own person and stop trying to be liked by everyone. There I found my happiness and started being more creative, which led me to build a great positive nonjudgmental fanbase and that’s what I’m focusing on.” She concludes.
Carrying your principles and core values with you wherever you go is amazing, applying them in your own way of living and maintaining them despite how different the environment you end up in is, is spectacular, however, it is out of place, as argued above, to try in any way, to impose, inflict, or merely suggest, your values onto anyone else. In conclusion, and all metaphors aside, the act of inflicting your opinion on someone else’s lifestyle choices is just wrong. You simply cannot force your cake onto someone else’s mouth!
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