Growing up, how many times was some variation of the timeless cliche “life is full of choices” spouted to you?
As human beings, we are the composite sum of the decisions that we make for ourselves, plus any that were determined before we could articulate otherwise. While not plainly evident, each choice we make helps subconsciously set future precedents for similar situations that may arise.
Unfortunately, as society surges into the eye of the digital media hurricane and the generation of immediate gratification is cast into the mainstream, a key aspect of decision making is becoming eradicated. What do I mean by this?
The current nature of stark comparison has crippled critical thought in America.
Option A is no longer something that is judged on its own merit. It is now merely seen as a juxtaposition to Options B, C and D. It is not possible to objectively analyze any subject (a person, quote, video, tweet, etc.) based on intrinsic value anymore, but rather on the differentiation between it and its counterpoint.
LeBron James’ greatness is interminably downplayed due to the pervasive idea that “no one else can ever do it like Jordan.” Klay Thompson has made a career for his Oscar worthy performance of best supporting actor to Steph Curry. College football coaches that win only 75% of their games get canned because they are a step below Nick Saban’s unrealistic standard of excellence (see Mark Richt and Les Miles).
As a Georgia grad, the single most prevalent theme throughout Kirby Smart’s tenure in Athens? Unrelenting questions on the stylistic comparisons between his current and previous employer.
This following statement will sound obvious and oddly simplistic, but recently it has somehow become bewilderingly convoluted: multiple things (even those in direct competition with each other) can be good or bad.
Both 2016 presidential candidates were unequivocal shit bags. Every Ivy League school is prestigious. Nick Saban’s prowess does not take away from Kirby Smart’s, and vice versa.
As NBA awards season rolls around, online warriors will set out for verbal fisticuffs, poking holes in every argument against their penultimate candidate. After hours of citing Basketball Reference, pulling advanced statistics and losing lung capacity, the only thing these individuals are able to do is confirm their own bias.
The absurdity piques interest a bit. At the end of the day, does it really matter? Can we not sit back and appreciate that each player is finding a unique way to make a game against 7-foot mutant cyborgs look effortless?
Our kids are gonna ask us how crazy this golden age was and we're gonna tell them we don't really know cuz too much was happening at once— Beyonce has an uncle named Larry Beyince. Bruh…. (@DragonflyJonez) February 12, 2017
Greatness located in front of our nose is constantly overlooked due to unnecessary, hypothetical comparison.
Over-saturated, inflammatory content lacking substance plays a critical role in watering down our society’s ability to decipher, analyze and appreciate legitimate, quality information.
Think of your circle of friends. Almost every group has an individual that is frustrating to hang out with for extended periods of time, usually for one specific reason. That reason? No matter the topic, it is only a matter of minutes before the conversation devolves into self-centered fodder of delusional one-upsmanship.
“It doesn’t matter that you climbed K2, I know a guy that summited Everest.”
“You drank 12 beers last night? That’s interesting, I drank 15.”
The person you now have mentally pictured is the physical manifestation of the problem being discussed. They’re much like Ultraviolet light — small doses are rarely harmful, but extended contact can become cancerous.
The issue that arises with this individual is, the majority of the time, he/she rarely recognizes that they have dominated the conversation or setting. It’s second nature. More seriously, he/she is oblivious to the effect of his/her recurring actions.
Continual exposure to a school of perpetual comparative thought inherently and effectively breeds divisiveness.
The humility to yield when incorrect and the ability to sacrifice for the sake of compromise are placed outside of the realm of possibility when the only available options are located on wildly contrasting ends of any spectrum.
For example: when describing the average national politician, on either side of the aisle, “moderate” is not exactly the first word that comes to mind. Winning the modern election requires many potential candidates to abandon many of his/her personal values and adopt those of their party. He/she has to cater a message specifically to the far right or the far left, because those are the people who make up the vocal majority. In other words, our unbearable friends are any given politician’s target audience.
Following the election, he/she is immediately painted into a corner. Defying his/her voter base is far from the first step on the path to reelection, but he/she also must act as a voice for everyone, not just those that cast a vote in their favor. The internal battle of party/argument versus morality/logic allows polarizing reason to turn well meaning individuals into debtors of an ideology to which they do not subscribe.
The digital media revolution has exponentially, and unknowingly, promoted a social acceptance of schismatic cognition. It has degenerated passed the point of expressive disagreement to a level of intrinsic discord.
“COMPARISON IS THE DEATH OF JOY.” -MARK TWAIN
Shows such as First Take, Embrace Debate and anything Clay Travis has ever produced simply exist to draw a rise out of people. They foster mental dispersion while robbing the media consuming community of substantive content. Do you really think that Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman have vehemently disagreed on every sports topic over the last 18 months? No, but they serve it to America on a silver spoon, and America eats it up like an overly-content toddler giggling at “choo-choo” characterizations.
Society desperately needs contrasting, yet respectful and intelligent discourse to further progress and retain the sanity of its citizens. The continuous polarization of mildly differing thought simply stagnates societal improvement for mutual betterment.
Own your opinions. Possess enough conviction to rationally defend yourself. But don’t be so rigid in current beliefs that you are resistant to discussion or change.