Whether it concerns a playful or a more serious topic, people often choose sides. We pick a definite stance on an issue, and avoid the gray middle ground. To better understand how prevalent this is in our lives, think of some of the aspects of your life in which it has become normal to gravitate towards one side or the other. Choosing a side might look like supporting a specific team in a college football rivalry, associating with one political affiliation opposed to the other, or even choosing whether or not to get vaccinated. It is clear that choosing sides has become a norm ingrained in our society regardless of what specific sides you take or feel obligated to take in your life.
Why we Choose Sides
One reason people want to or feel obligated to choose sides is so they can have a sense of community. By choosing a side in an issue, you create a community with others that share similar perspectives or ideals. Since we are surrounded with people that support our ideas and viewpoints, we gain a sense of belonging. This allows us to establish a community and develop relationships within it.
Similar to the first reason, picking a definite side rather than floating around in the gray area in between gives us a sense of certainty and comfort. Rather than wonder about the different sides to a complex issue and unravel in uncertainty, choosing one stance allows us to have something worthy to put our trust in and to defend. This sense of certainty, guaranteed by taking one side, allows us to feel some comfort and relief, and it causes us to feel less doubt and more hope. To some extent, we know the stress of dealing with the unknown, so, perhaps for some, choosing a side of an issue is more about eliminating uncertainty from their lives rather than the actual content of the issue.
Probably, the primary reason we tend to take a position on any issue is societal pressure. People often choose sides because they feel obligated to do so by the rest of society. If you do not take a stance, people of society might assume a stance for you, creating more problems. In some cases, remaining in the gray area of an issue has severe consequences, such as social inequality or injustice. Nevertheless, pressure from society often compels people to choose a side; whether it is necessary or not.
There are potential advantages to the societal norm of choosing sides. For one, identifying and associating oneself with a particular group can help you build a community. Having a strong and reliable community is an essential need for humans. When we deliberately choose a side of an issue, we form a connection between others who share the same beliefs. Various communities and support systems can be established as a result of the shared similarities between people.
Furthermore, establishing a stance on an issue can provide us with clarity about our values and ideals. When we establish what is of value to us, we are able to make more informed decisions and understand the consequences it will have on us. This clarity also allows us to better understand and communicate what we value in our personal relationships. Specifically, if we are able to understand what is important to us, we will be able to communicate that easier with others and build more honest and less superficial relationships.
There are also disadvantages to this human tendency. One of the disadvantages of establishing a stance on an issue is that we tend to become more and more closed off to hearing the other side making us more firm in our position. We are so focused on creating our own community of people who share similar beliefs that we isolate ourselves and ignore other perspectives. It’s important to understand that in order to develop as a society, it’s imperative that we encourage the diversity of thought. The continuous act of always picking sides can elevate the level of stubbornness in society and hinder society’s ability to advance.
Elaborating on the previous disadvantage, the act of constantly choosing sides can cause people to become hostile with each other. If people always feel like they are at odds and are more divided than united, chaos and hostility will ensue. Sometimes, though, chaos and hostility are needed in order to call for much needed change.
It is important to consider the implications of choosing sides. While it is sometimes necessary, it can have significant consequences. However, since we are on the subject of picking sides, roll tide!
For more intriguing pieces like this one, read one of Annikah’s recent works “Maintaining Our Resolutions in 2022.”