A World of Opposition: How a Few Words Can Quickly Lead to Animosity

Earlier this month, the Humans of Acadia Instagram and Facebook pages published a short blurb written by an Acadia student that was almost instantly deleted from both accounts. The post was the student’s response to this question: “If money were no object, what would you do?” The student’s words quickly seemed to get lost in translation, resulting in numerous upset comments, and, eventually, the post being taken down. Conflicting responses wondered whether or not the student had said something genuinely offensive, as he wrote about his personal beliefs regarding one of our world’s most important issues.

This student, a third year Kinesiology major at Acadia, had expressed his thoughts on obesity. He claimed that, if money were no object, he would help fight this global issue which leads to so many other health problems. He also said that, based on the education he’s receiving on the topic at Acadia, he feels as though a great solution to a lot of these issues is exercise and other small changes. His post said that he believes that many chronic diseases will be severely changed if people “watch what they are eating and perform physical activity regularly”. When asked if he meant any offense by encouraging people to live active lives, he said that, based on the fact that obesity is linked with the leading cause of death in America, he simply wanted to help.

Neglecting to discuss social determinants of health, such as education, income, and others, this student hurt some people in the process of expressing his thoughts on the issue, since they felt as though he was shaming overweight people. His quick write up also left out some other details that he later said were important to him, such as the real answer to the question: “If I had all the money in the world, I would donate it to families who can’t afford healthier foods”. He also added that he’d love the opportunity to help educate others about the “importance of having a healthy lifestyle”. While most of the comments scolded the writer for how hurtful his words were, the post’s feedback was a great reminder of why it’s so important to listen to others and to choose our words carefully.

The writer of the post on Humans of Acadia meant no harm in the words he wrote, yet the backlash was harsh. Some readers were unwilling to understand that he was writing with a desire to help. In a world increasingly full of political and social polarization, we seem to be quick to anger and slow to listen. Constructive arguments are important, but angry backlash is rarely productive. This article isn’t to tell anyone when they can and can’t be offended, but the post on Humans of Acadia is a good reminder that it’s okay to be hurt by something and to let it be. We’re so often encouraged to stand up for what we believe in, but if we stand up for everything, people will stop listening. 

Why was something controversial deleted so quickly? Is it because we know that we are becoming less and less capable of having civil, educational conversations about our disagreements? If that’s the case, then how can anyone be expected to share their opinions, especially when they think they’re sharing helpful ones? In a world with so much opposition, hate, and arguing, it’s easy to feel like we’re always walking on eggshells, unsure of when we’ll offend someone next. Even as I’m writing this article, I’m catching myself being overly careful with my words. We shouldn’t have to fear this, though; if we can make it our main priority to educate others, rather than to call them out, then we won’t need to delete posts or be afraid to speak our minds. And as humans, I think it is our duty to educate others.