CHADRON – Paul Wesselmann visited Chadron State College for the second consecutive year Nov. 3 to present his discussion “Shut up, you Stupid Crazy Meany” to attendees in the Student Center Ballroom.
Wesselmann, commonly referred to as The Ripples Guy, has spoken on over 200 campuses across the U.S. encouraging conversations about critical issues and helping individuals and teams unleash their potential.
His presentation discussed the difficulty of defending one’s own opinions in spheres such as religion and politics, and how to approach hostile conversations that can ensue when opinions differ.
“We are so quick to point out when the other side of a disagreement is wrong, but we have a lot harder time admitting fault when it is in us,” Wesselmann said.
Wesselmann began with discussing the power social media outlets have in expressing opinion and gaining awareness. He specified Facebook posts about the Virginia Tech campus shooting in 2007 as the point when he realized the power of online platforms.
“I logged on to Facebook that night and liked a support group for Virginia Tech. When I logged off it had 3,000 supporters. I logged on later that night and it was already at 100,000 likes, and that is when I realized Facebook was here to stay,” Wesselmann said.
According to Wesselmann, the current political atmosphere mimics the harsh environment of past elections such as 2008, but in a more exaggerated way with the availability of social forums like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allowing anyone’s opinion to be more immediate and visible than the past.
Wesselmann gave the example of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the issues stemming from it as reflected in popular social media hashtags.
“The Black Lives Matter Movement is a great example. Hashtags went from ‘Black Lives Matter’ to ‘All Lives Matter’ to ‘Black Lives Matter More.’ The context of the conversation was lost. People understand it now, but it should have always been ‘Black Lives Matter, Too,’” Wesselmann said.
Wesselmann has over 20,000 subscribers to his weekly “Ripples” email featuring upbeat quotes submitted by followers.
Regardless of how one defines their beliefs, informs their opinions or garners inspiration, Wesselmann believes that understanding is the key to the conversation.
“Every person has a story. We are so tempted to think that people are crazy, irrational and mean, because they don’t share the same opinions or story as we do. But you know what, so are we. There is a difference between sympathy and empathy. We must learn to empathize and understand the other side,” Wesselmann said.
—Conor P. Casey, Graduate Assistant