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In a world full of opinions, I remain uncertain 

PHOTOGRAPHY BY TED MIN

WORDS BY GEORGIE KIBEL

*Shrugs shoulders*

I am the epitome of the 21st-century wallflower. I spend far too much time on my screen, trawling through my socials in order to feel connected to the world despite being confined to the walls of my home.

But while I’m on social media for hours every day, I rarely post. I observe, like a modern, female, Instagram-savvy David Attenborough. Social media is my jungle. Never interfering. Always watching. 

Lately, my feed has been filled with convincing opinions and intense debate surrounding a number of issues. What is the best way to respond to coronavirus? Should Victorians be able to protest lockdown? Was the 2020 Australian budget fair?

I even found myself invested in an argument between two strangers who had very differing opinions on whether or not the Australian soap opera Neighbours should be axed. 

What struck me (and continues to do so) is the vehemence with which people argue their point of view. People are so sure of themselves. Within the online space at least, there seems to be zero self-doubts. 

Meanwhile, though I have a grasp on what my fundamental beliefs are (equality, human rights, climate change is real, Die Hard is a Christmas movie), with the vast majority of topics I encounter, I remain largely uncertain about where I stand. 

When Flex Mami, everyone’s favourite podcaster, posts a poll on Instagram, my finger wavers over the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ button for far too long, before I give up and swipe past.

When a page on Facebook encourages people to ‘weigh-in’ in the comments, I scroll through agreeing with arguments on both sides. When people debate on television, I nod in agreement with both parties when it is their turn to speak (except when it is you, Mr Andrew Bolt). 

Do I think our government has responded correctly to the pandemic? Should Kate Miller-Heidke have won The Masked Singer? Is there such a thing as ethical consumption under capitalism?

The short answer is: I don’t know. 

And in my experience, when I can’t firmly find my position on an issue, I feel incompetent. Whether it is an issue as broad as Melbourne’s lockdown, or something as frivolous as wearing fake tan, being unable to form an unwavering opinion can often instil a sense of shame. 

This ambiguous state, where it is impossible to firmly say if you are in one camp or another, can be anxiety-inducing. When everyone around you can argue their point of view with such certainty, it can make you question your own capabilities. 

‘How come everyone can think with such clarity?’ and ‘Why aren’t I as informed?’ are questions I regularly ask myself. My shoulder-shrugging ways are causing me personal anguish. 

But because I am trying to be optimistic this year (despite what 2020 has presented us with), I am attempting to view this uncertainty as a strength.

Being unsure can mean that you are open to learning more about both sides while never becoming too tied to one point of view. It also means that you won’t align yourself with a viewpoint unless you are across all of the nuances and complexities. 

I can imagine most of us unsure people are also naturally curious. Immune to fake news, we must read multiple articles on the same topic before we consider agreeing with any one argument. 

And while I think you can be opinionated and still open to learning, there is a degree of liberation in being completely open-minded in regard to some topics. When I do come to a decision or change my mind after reading new information, or begin to perceive events through a more mature lens, I feel a sense of personal growth. 

And besides, it isn’t wrong to be uncertain (which is something I am only beginning to learn). Although it is tempting to opt for blanket statements and quick conclusions, life is not always straightforward. Sometimes there simply isn’t an answer. Sometimes being uncertain is perfectly valid. 

So to everyone that populates the same liminal space as me, where we spend days pondering arguments and debates, I welcome you. Together, we can try and decide whether or not it is good to be here.

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