"When did people become so self-centered, Kid?" Karl asked me.
Is this a trick question, Karl? Am I supposed to say 'The Garden of Eden' or something?
"No, I mean when did people start thinking their opinion mattered?" I stared at Karl. This was pretty brutal, even for him.
Don't you think people's opinions matter? I asked. We were at Eaux Canada, our favorite Canadian bar, watching the Women's World Cup on satellite TV.
"No, not really."
How can you say that? I asked. We live in a democracy, and you yourself believe the First Amendment is the most sacred right of everyone in this country.
"And I still stand by that, Kid. Everyone is free to say what they want. But that doesn't mean they have to weigh in on each and every controversial issue like they automatically get a say in what happens."
How are those things different?
"Look at Caitlyn Jenner," said Karl. "She's made the transition into the person she believed she needed to be. She used to be Bruce, but she never felt like a Bruce, so she became Caitlyn." Felix, our bartender, set down a couple beers for us, and Karl took a long drink. He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand.
"Here's someone who makes a deeply personal decision, a decision that only she's allowed to make. When she's done, people get on Facebook and Twitter and offer their opinion about her choice, as if it's their business."
I saw some of those comments. They were downright hateful, I said.
"Exactly! So why do those people think they get to say anything?" Karl asked. "Caitlyn Jenner doesn't answer to anyone. Yet here are all these finger pointers all over the world who not only think they're entitled to an opinion about this, but even God himself can't stop them from sharing it."
There was even a petition to have her stripped of the 1976 Olympic gold medals she won as Bruce Jenner.
"Yeah, and it was promptly smacked down by the IOC," Karl laughed. "Fastest action by a bureaucracy ever. I think they set a world record." He took another drink.
"A few days ago, South Bend's mayor, Pete Buttigeig, came out as gay, and people had opinions about that. People outside Indiana, let alone outside South Bend, thought it was their place to question his lifestyle. They didn't talk about whether it affected his work, only that they thought it was good or bad.
"LeBron James was disrespectful to his head coach, David Blatt, last week, and every NBA fan felt they should weigh in on that. And when Chobani yogurt had that married lesbian couple in their latest commercial, the computer keyboard called One Million Moms had a gripe fest about it."
Why do you even care what people do? I asked. These are people whose lives don't affect yours, and you're getting all worked up about what other people think.
"That's my point. These events shouldn't even matter. Caitlyn Jenner's choice doesn't affect me in the least. Pete Buttigieg's sexual orientation doesn't affect me. LeBron James' attitude doesn't change my life at all. And I couldn't care less who Chobani chooses to shill their product; I'm a Dannon man through and through."
So what? We should all strive for your level of apathy?
"No, I'm just sick of people sharing their hateful un-asked-for opinions about things that don't concern them. The people they're griping about will never see it, but I'm subjected to every grouse and grumble about things we can't control. No one should have an opinion about someone else's personal life, especially when they have zero connections to them."
Karl, like it or not, we live in a country where people can exercise their free expression. That's what makes this country great. We can share our opinions and weigh in on things that matter and don't matter at all.
"Yeah, but just because you're free to express yourself doesn't mean I have to listen," he growled.
So who's at fault here? People have been like this ever since the first nosey cavewoman told a neighbor her bearskin was too short. This is not new.
"I blame social media," said Karl, plonking his beer mug onto the bar. "People may have been nosey and self-righteous for centuries, but Facebook and newspaper online comments have made it too easy for the shameless and close-minded to publicly vomit their bigoted opinions. Mark Zuckerberg created a monster, and he ought to be ashamed. He should hang his hoodied head in shame."
Is that your opinion? I asked, taking a drink of my beer. Your honest opinion of his life and professional choices?
Karl pondered that for a few seconds. "I don't have to listen to this."
Yeah, but I get to say it all day long. Cheers, dude.
You can find my books Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million, or for the Kindle or Nook. My third book The Owned Media Doctrine is available on Amazon.com
Like this post? Leave a comment.