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July 18, 2017

Stemming the tide of digital judgement

In this online opinion piece, CityMag editor Farrin Foster argues - amongst other things - for less online opinion pieces.

  • Words: Farrin Foster

I was brought up by two very funny, very smart, very individual women. My Mum and my Aunty – as role models go – are pretty perfect.

The other day, they mentioned in passing that they were, “trying to be less judgemental”.

Farrin Foster is CityMag’s editor

To me – a (sort of) digital native – the pair of them barely register on the judgement scale. In the era of professional internet snark, a couple of women occasionally wondering, barely audibly, why a jogging man thought he could get away with not wearing a shirt “at his age” seems pretty innocuous.

Regardless of how low-key it is, the quest to eliminate judgement is surely admirable. Passing judgement is pretty much the equivalent of confidently stating there’s only one right way – your way – to think and to be.

It’s so obvious that there’s multitudinous workable approaches to getting life done that it hardly needs stating.

But (and maybe this is my imagination), despite this undoubted truism, people seem increasingly comfortable in egocentrically picking apart others’ decisions. Maybe this grating trend is thanks to online tribalism, or maybe it’s thanks to our insular Western way of life.

Whatever’s causing it, the result is a bunch of people opting to see black and white when there’s really a whole lot of grey.

The grey is important. It’s in the grey where community is built, because it’s those equivocal spaces that make mutual understanding possible – even for people who are very different.

A path back to a public embrace of the grey – in which political conversations could be open to possibility instead of infused with ‘gotcha’ moments, or opinion pieces from commentators wouldn’t have to blatantly land on one side of an issue just to attract clicks – is hard to envisage.

But maybe there’s a clue to how to get there in the example set by my Mum and Aunty.

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