One of the most poisonous elements of modern technology is the ability to mute both content and people.
On the surface, it sounds perfectly acceptable. You grow tired of a certain topic or the exhaustive sharing habits of certain friends, and, without going all the way to remove them from your day-to-day experience, you simply quiet the portions of noise that bother you the most.
In a world of highly-curated opinions, deeply polarizing and heavily-politicized views, and rampant tribalism in the consumer sphere, however, the ability to simply remove certain opinions that are not adherent with your own is irrefutably dangerous.
You ought to know — and embrace — opinions divergent from your own. Moreover, if you respect someone, you ought to listen to all that they have to say, rather than selectively censoring them.
On a more trivial level, muting discussions during a conference or live event is marginally palatable. But, in my eyes, it's still troublesome. Is it really so difficult to contend with a flowing river of collective discussion over a mass-consumption event? Surely not.
Knowledge is frequently defined as a justified true belief. The justification portion is one of the most important, as it requires you to have circumstantial awareness of opinions both supportive and conflicting.
Without apt justification, we can easily fool ourselves into a false sense of knowledgeability on a vast spectrum of topics. In the technology world, for instance, we can pay attention selectively to analysts, writers, or publications — all of which skew toward one brand or another — in order to seemingly justify our particular allegiances and habits.
The danger is, obviously, minimal. Nevertheless, it does pose significant damage to intelligent and measured discourse. Without circumstantial awareness, it's far too easy to succumb to extremist opinions and flagrant unintelligence regarding certain — frequently important — topics.
For all of this I mean to simply argue that when you're next confronted with an opinion you disagree with on Twitter, a website, or another such outlet, do not simply tune it out. Equally, do not reflexively attempt to counter. Instead, simply absorb and consider. Keep it in mind.
Obviously if someone's expressing outrageously offensive opinions, this does not apply. But, in the realms of business, politics, and artistry, I cannot stress enough how important and conducive such tolerant and rational behavior can be.
Removing people and opinions from our daily experience for the sole purpose of alleviating our own anxieties and insecurities of our own opinions — or, worse, for the sake of expressing superiority over someone else — is destructive. And, in a world of highly-curated content, it can result in us missing important information and circumstantial awareness, thereby fostering disjointed beliefs and ever-worsening extremes in opinion.
Muting ought to be used extremely sparingly, rather than as a means to support your comfort. If you don't like what's being said, I daresay there's plenty more constructive means for you to contend with such rhetoric. And if you don't appreciate an event that's happening, just avoid Twitter (or similar) for an hour.
We have more power than ever in terms of shaping the way we comprehend our world — business, media, politics, or otherwise — and, although it might take more work, I'd say opening yourself up to opinions outside of your own is of the utmost importance.