Keeping My Skepticism without Losing My Friends
One of the hardest problems I face as a skeptic is this: How do I respond to irrational or pseudo-scientific ideas expressed by friends? A delicate balance has to be maintained between being a total jerk and not sticking up for skepticism. The key to maintaining this balance is picking my battles. I go through a process when deciding whether or not make a comment. First, was the comment out there enough for any potential social repercussions to be worth making a point? If so, then is this person a good enough friend that I won’t be seen as a contrary smart-ass? Next, how invested do they seem to be in this idea? Are they more of a true believer or are they a fence -sitter? If they are a true believer there is nothing I can do. If they aren’t my idea might click with them.
This process does not always work, however. One time I was hanging out with my friends when someone said, “Oh, I’m not getting the flu shot because the Government uses them to poison us.” Was that comment out there? Yes. Were the offender and I good friends? I think so, we’ve been friends since the start of the school year. Was she really emotionally invested in this idea? It’s hard to tell.
I decided that comment was to extreme to let it slip by. I thought I did a pretty good job of not talking down to her. But apparently, as she told me later, she felt like I was belittling her. I have no idea what I did wrong or what I could do better. I guess I just have to learn what kind of person I can talk to about skepticism and what kind I can’t. A few people take any opposition to their beliefs as a personal attack on them. Also I way underestimated how strongly she believed the government was poisoning us with vaccines.
A mistake along this line of thinking can easily be made. I’ve misjudged how invested someone is in an idea and struck a raw nerve. I’ve misjudged the stability of my friendships. I walk a fine line every time I share my opinion. But I would rather walk that line than remain silent.