NORTH ADAMS

My wife, who is much sharper than me but not quite as loud, says that one of the biggest problems she has with social networking and the online world in general is this feeling that you are required to have an official position on everything.

Not opinion. Everyone has an opinion. Position. That’s where your opinion becomes a public announcement of intention. An official stance. You can talk about abortion privately, and that is your opinion, but it becomes your position the moment you post a link to an article with your opinion on Twitter or Facebook or whatever.

I can remember a time when I had no idea what my friends thought about multiple matters. I might know one thing about one friend because it came up, then another thing about someone else for the same reason, but I never, ever knew every particular stance a person might have about every issue there was. I certainly never felt that anyone was pressured by the feeling they were required to state their position as a matter of routine.

Some people who don’t wish to state a position can feel bullied by the immediate voices online proclaiming that you MUST do so because time is of the essence. You must speak out about climate change or Obamacare or liberals taking your guns away or GMOs destroying our natural bodily fluids, or you obviously do not care enough about the deeply important things that rip our world apart. Don’t you care? Then prove it! Post a meme about it at least!

I’m not going to pretend I am speaking for myself here. I am a loudmouth. Whenever I see one of those cars with 100 political bumper stickers on the back, I think to myself, "I’m paid to be self-righteous, what’s their excuse?" I am speaking for my wife and friends. I feel their pain even as I contribute to it.

This world of positional onslaught can become a constant ticker tape of other people pleading for you to be as concerned as they are. Friendships might even teeter on the balance.

Sometimes people who don’t register their official position are concerned about many things, they just don’t like talking about them constantly. Although you may think a subject is very complicated and nuanced, and needs debate, other people might have a view without all the caveats and analysis you bring to it. They know what they think, why talk about it?

Also, some of them may be afraid to say anything because you are such a zealot about the subject that even if they agree with you, if they diverge from one minor part of your argument, you will slam them for it. You will micro-manage them so they use the correct language, think the correct thing.

This is especially tricky with an age gap. The younger you are, the more you’re likely assume that no one has ever been as concerned as you about this topic, or as knowledgable. You thought of these progressive ideas in a vacuum and now you are bestowing your gift to the world. How dare they not listen to this brand new knowledge they’ve heard 100 times before. All us loudmouths have been there before.

This is why the currency of the Internet is funny pictures of cats and baby animals, not opinions. It is something that only very few of us disagree with. If it ever seems that the online world is too littered with them and not enough important discussion, I disagree. More baby goats, please! Shower us with baby sloths! Assault us with visions of baby raccoons until we can’t see straight! Whatever helps you get through the night!

John Seven, a writer, lives in North Adams. He can be reached at mister.j.seven@gmail.com or at johnseven.net.