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I had a few different title ideas for this post, most of which came from a place of frustration or humour.

‘How to piss off an anti-vaxxer’ and ‘the cultural decline of intellectual integrity’ were two of my favourites.

Both would have satisfied my desire to ‘poke the bear’ of the vaccine hesitant, of which I have many within my social circles.

However, after a few failed confrontations, I’ve decided to take the diplomatic approach.

I’ll let my frustrations go, just this once.

I wanted to write this article not as a ‘here’s all the reasons you’re wrong’ explainer, but as an open letter to everyone I’ve pissed off over the last three years. An explanation of my intentions, if you will.

This in an opportunity for me to speak from the heart without the risk of my motivations being misunderstood.

Here we go…

What I have learnt while interacting with anti-vaxxers is that it’s not good enough to be right, to have all the information or think with logic. You have to understand the emotional reasoning behind the choice to not participate in public health measures.

There’s more to it than raw data. If that was all it was about, being shown more information wouldn’t be so offensive. Firing logic at someone just pushes them further down the rabbit hole.

I may not ever fully understand someone’s emotional footing when it comes to refusing the vaccine, although I have some ideas. I have a suspicion that they feel the same as I do, afraid, albeit for different reasons, so I’ll do my best to explain.

All I can do is communicate my reasons for questioning their beliefs.

Why did the pandemic ruin so many relationships?

A few things to get out of the way first…

  1. This isn’t medical advice.
  2. I’m not pretending to be a doctor on the Internet.
  3. I’m not forcing anyone to get vaccinated, and never will.
  4. You’re not being forced to read this.

I’ve lost a few friends during the pandemic, I think many people have. Tensions were high to begin, then throw social media and misinformation into the mix, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for relationship destruction.

There appears to be this fundamental misunderstanding between the anti-vax and pro science crowds. Each side thinking the other are completely clueless.

I get it, it sometimes feels like they’re from another planet, and I’m guilty of treating them like they are.

In my life, heated discussions have turned into months of radio silence and accusations of bullying. All of which cause pain and push you further apart.

The real problem here is the misinterpretation of care.

Being a good friend is really hard.

You have to know when to take a step back and let things run their course, and when to step in and speak up. The COVID-19 vaccine is one of those times when I’ve felt the need to do the latter. I’m here to tell my friends what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear. That’s what a good friend does.

It’s out of love that I challenged their beliefs, If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t have bothered.

Here’s my thinking

  1. I was worried about their health.
  2. I was worried about the people around them.
  3. Likewise, I didn’t want them to suffer socially, Anti-vaxxers don’t have the best reputation.
  4. I could see the logical flaws in what they were posting on social media and the dangers in what they were sharing.

All of this comes from a place of love and genuine concern, but it wasn’t taken that way.

How I wish I could help.

I’m no scientist, so I’m not going to try to talk about efficacy or risks. Instead, below, I’ve shared a couple of points that have built my foundation of reasoning that has guided my confrontations over the last couple of years. These are the principles that should be in everyone’s decision-making toolkit.

Use your energy to figure out who to listen to, not what to listen to.

Unless you are qualified to do so, don’t even try to understand the science and statistics of COVID-19 or the vaccine. This is where most of the misinformation and fear comes from. Unqualified people, misinterpreting the information. Your energy is much better spent attempting to figure out who to listen to, someone qualified and able to translate the data correctly.

Opinions have a value.

I heard, ‘you have to respect my opinion’ over and over again. The problem is that one person’s opinion can be worth less than another’s. For example, my opinion on brain surgery is worth less than that of a brain surgeon. Our respective opinions should be listened to and respected accordingly.

If someone tells you something, don’t look at what they’ve said, look at who they are.

Your mind can play tricks on you.

Do whatever it takes not to fool yourself into thinking something is true that is not or that something is not true that is.

We can’t let human feelings get in the way of reality and objective truths. Something can be true, even if you don’t think or want it to be.

It’s really hard to remove the things that colour our perception of the world. The years of conditioning from our social circles, parents, and workmates are difficult to reverse. Recognising that your vision is skewed is so important.

We live in a world that requires a certain level of civil responsibility, from everyone. Our roles in society include keeping each other safe, and it’s the belief that each side isn’t doing their part that is creating so much conflict.

There’s so much anger, and I’ll be the first to admit that it got the better of me.

I love all of my friends, and I don’t blame anyone for taking a different path, I just wish they saw my intentions for what they are. This whole saga has taught me a couple of things. 1. Don’t take myself too seriously, and 2. Being misunderstood is easier now than it used to be.

At the end of the day, reality is stronger than anyone’s efforts to distort it, willingly or unwillingly. So, the world will go on, regardless of what is being shared on instagram.

If we strip away the self-importance and ego, you’re left with people that just want to do the right thing, on both sides of the vaccine debate. That’s all that matters.

For now, I just need to do my mental accounting, take stock of what’s important and move forward with a slightly smaller circle.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Karen Reivich, Director of Training Programs at the Positive Psychology Center, Pennsylvania.

True optimism involves “seeing the world as it is, yet still believing and more importantly behaving-in ways that create better outcomes for all of us.”

Cya in the next one x