Do Tell, Michelle: Why You Don't Have To Have A (Public) Opinion On Everything
You don't have to have an opinion on everything.
I tweeted this exact sentence out a week ago. Actually, I tweeted it out three times because I really really REALLY wanted people to hear me.
(Yes, I do know that writing it three times doesn't make people listen.
YES, I DO KNOW THAT WRITING IT IN CAPITAL LETTERS DOESN'T MAKE PEOPLE LISTEN.
Actually, not so sure about that last one…)
Why do I want people to hear me when I say that? Because I want people to stop asking me, actually no, I want people to stop expecting me to comment on every single body shaming article or every single rift in the body positive community.
I used to definitely be that person. The person who had an opinion about anything and everything; the person who would voice that opinion whether you liked it or not. But I grew up, and realised that sometimes my opinion is not needed and, more importantly, sometimes my opinion is not the most important in the room.
I am an opinionated person. I usually do have an opinion but as to whether I choose to vocalise it is a separate thing entirely. I have been an ‘online presence’ (for lack of a better word) for over four years now and have learnt a fair few things in that time.
First of all: clicks are still clicks. I learnt this when Nicole Arbour’s Dear Fat People video went viral. I was so angry, I made a response video. That video alone got more views than the rest of the videos on my YouTube channel combined. So why was it the wrong thing to do, I hear you ask? Because of every single person who discovered my video before Nicole's. I realised that, because of my video, people were looking up her video and as a result, more people knew that this horrible woman existed. Consequently, I feel that I’m responsible for any upset or triggering that my followers experienced from that video. Lesson learned, and I now refrain from commenting on the majority of negative things because, whilst you personally may already know about whatever the issue at hand is, that may not be the same for the rest of my followers.
Second of all, I don’t like to expend energy towards things that do not serve me. I don't like getting riled up unnecessarily and if I don't think something will make my life better, then I simply won't click on it. Recent examples of this were the trailers for To The Bone and 13 Reasons Why. What I did instead of just watching, was my research. Ultimately, I decided that 13 Reasons Why was worth watching, as I felt that I could learn something from it, and it could challenge my point of view. As for To The Bone, though, my research showed the trailer as nothing more than triggering.
Third of all, I respect my friends enough to know they can stand up for themselves. This is more specifically in relation to things that go on in the online community. The body positive community is massive now; we aren't all going to get along. We aren't all going to agree on what is body positive and what isn't. Of course, I have my views and from my page - and to those who follow me - it should be fairly obvious as to what side of the fence I sit on. Despite that, what I do not feel the need to do is ‘stand up’ for anyone, because every individual within the community can speak for themselves and hold their own. Just because I don't speak out about something, it doesn't mean that I’m not speaking to the person directly on a private level or supporting them on a personal level. It simply means I don't wish to make a conversation - one that’s not about me - about me, because it derails it entirely. There is a certain way I like to conduct myself online and there are certain values that are important to me, which I will feel the need to defend from time to time. At the same time, that doesn’t mean everyone else will have the same view as me, and that's okay.
Now, all of this does not mean I will never comment on anything. As an activist, I do feel it’s important to speak up, and on occasion, call people out. I will do so when I want to; it’s my platform and only I can choose what content I wish to make and/or where I want to place my time and energy. I’m a firm believer that this type of mentality benefits everyone, and the thing that’s liberated me the most is learning when to step back and say, it’s not my problem.