Recently Hillel, the foundation for Jewish campus life, hosted a discussion about the Gaza-Israel conflict. Although my evening was jam-packed with other meetings, I realized that attending this discussion would bring me up to speed on the news that I always intend to watch but rarely find the time for.
Those who showed up were separated into smaller discussion groups of six, and I was soon on my way to the Hillel basement, where I would engage in a discussion that far exceeded my expectations -- expectations built on the extreme views I had seen expressed on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms.
Much to my surprise, most members of my discussion group had moderate views that were not in any way a reflection of the rants I see daily on my Facebook newsfeed. It was the first time in a long time that I felt comfortable expressing an opinion that didn't involve an elevated blood pressure.
Many students who attended this discussion had a reflexive tendency to side with Israel -- all were Jewish, many have visited Israel and some have family members living in Israel today. In terms of having moderate views, all odds were against these discussion-goers. Yet if they were able to put their loyalty aside and express a moderate view that takes the other side into account, what is stopping the rest of us from doing the same?
Perhaps the answer lies in how easy it has become to express our opinions due to social media.
It takes a lot for someone to take a step back, assess what they know and admit that they aren't in a position to make an informed opinion on an issue. Unfortunately, people do not take the time to do this.
While I noticed many less-than-thought-provoking Facebook statuses about the election a few weeks ago, the Gaza-Israel conflict has certainly made the issue of negligence more apparent.
The problem with expressing extremist views on social media platforms is that it has become the norm. People look to others when they do not know how to behave, and when others are posting opinions that do not consider or sympathize with the other side, a snowball effect ensues, moving us further and further away from a solution.
These extreme views can often silence those with moderate opinions by making them feel uniformed. When passionate one-sided arguments are the norm, it becomes difficult to express a middle-of-the-road view due to the fear of seeming neither here nor there.
Another side effect of extreme views is that they are often rude and stubborn. The courtesy expected in face-to-face discussions is often forgone on social media platforms, creating insolence and causing caps-lock to be the standard for online expression.
Moderate voices may be the key to reaching a compromise. However, the extreme views expressed on social media make compromise not only tough, but perhaps also unrealistic.
That being said, I truly believe that we need to consider moderate views in real-life political decisions. My Gaza-Israel discussion group demonstrated that even the least likely of people are able to compromise. Caps lock isn't the answer when lives are at stake.