I’ve never been a joiner, and I don’t particularly care for groups. I find that no matter how liberal the group, there is a core mentality to which you have to adhere in order to be embraced. Otherwise, you’re tolerated at best, coldly snubbed at worst. As anyone who has interacted with me knows, I’m not a follower. I have a hard time with authority for various reasons, but mostly because I’m wary of a concentrated amount of power, no matter how just it might seem. In addition, we are all tribal at heart, whether we want to admit it or not, so the temptation to skew to the group norm is great. It’s not always a conscious thing, which makes it harder to recognize in yourself.
I’ve talked before about being a contrarian in part as a defense against falling into herd mentality. It’s partly because I tend to see things as multifaceted rather than as one thing or the other, which makes arguing on social media an exercise in frustration and futility. What I haven’t talked much about is how lonely it makes me feel a lot of the time. Despite my rather brash persona online and my prolific use of cuss words, I have a rather pathological need to please people. Or rather, not to offend people I care about and/or respect. Even when I disagree, I strive to find a way not to make it obvious that I’m doing so. It goes past trying to find common ground; I simply cannot tell someone I think they’re wrong without feeling overwhelmingly guilty. I’ll point out discrepancies or edge around the issue, but very rarely can I say, “I don’t agree.” I think there’s value in being polite or trying to see the other person’s point of view, but there is a limit. My way of dealing with issues in which I have a firm opinion is to not talk about it. For example, I am about as leftist as you can get on the topic of abortion. I think it should be legal all the time without question. Since I know I have no budge to give on the topic, I don’t discuss it with anti-choicers because there’s no point. I won’t change their mind, and they certainly will not change mine. Yes, I used to write about it ad nauseam, but that was just me preaching to the choir.