I have a friend who recently shared an Instagram post from a wildly problematic figure. I understood my friend to be unaware of who this person is—unlike me, my buddy isn’t plugged into the latest skirmishes in the social media culture wars—so I told him that he should probably take the post down.
I didn’t agree with the sentiment espoused by the shared post itself, but that wasn’t the point—I wanted to let my friend know that he was unwittingly aligning himself with an odious human being. But on the whole, I’d say it’s probably better to do the opposite of what I did: More often than not, you should let your friends and family enjoy things that you find detestable.
If you’re an opinionated person, it might be hard to let it slide when a friend cranks up a song from an artist you hate or raves about the new book from an author with a checkered personal history. However, there are times when it’s appropriate to voice your opinion, even if it sparks disagreement or debate, and times when it’s not.
If it’s harmless, stay quiet
It’s not worth being the only dissenting voice in the room when everyone else is enjoying good, clean fun. Why pout because you hate football while everyone else is discussing last night’s tense playoff game? If everyone else is enjoying something you loathe, it’s fine if you retreat inward, and you certainly need not be outwardly judgmental towards people who are enjoying something you don’t appreciate.
People generally hold both their convictions and personal taste dearly, but at no point is it appropriate to be critical of someone’s taste if they’re not being irresponsible or offensive offensive about it. You can and will come off like a jerk if you meet someone’s enthusiasm for Adele with an eye roll or a combative, contrarian stance. (Certainly she isn’t the first artist I’d listen to, but I’m not going to skewer my friend for singing her praises).
Relationships aren’t built solely on a common interest in art, music, books, sports, and politics. The bedrock of every healthy relationship, whether it’s platonic or romantic, is a mutual interest in the other person’s well-being (having a few laughs never hurts, either). If someone’s benign interest in a particular TV show goads you, keep it to yourself.
There are times to speak up
Of course, if you care about someone, there are times to interject when you feel it’s absolutely necessary. If for example, a friend won’t stop raving about Woody Allen or J.K. Rowling—two icons of their respective fields who are now almost as synonymous with controversy as they are with their seminal works—it might not be a terrible idea to at least mention their unsavory reputations, if the person you’re speaking to isn’t aware.
It’s not inconceivable a friend or loved one will still embrace a celebrity (or their work) despite said celeb experiencing a public downfall—after all, it is possible, at least for some, to separate art from the artist. If you believe this to be the case, it’s probably best to let it slide. It’s a hill worth dying on—or killing your friendship over, especially if you understand that your friend is actively grappling with the disconnect between the creator and their creation.
At other times, however, it’s perfectly normal—if not necessary—to question someone’s allegiance to a nakedly problematic person or cause. If you’re truly close with someone, you’re not going to let them amplify conspiracies that question the efficacy of vaccines or peddle lies about election fraud without at least presenting a different point of view. There are limits to how effective this kind of confrontation can be, but on the rare occasions it’s truly warranted, it’s always worth it to try.
It’s about respect
It’s true that everyone has an intrinsic need to feel heard, and there’s no shame in offering your opinion on various matters if you feel it will be well received or prompt a meaningful conversation. But in many instances, it isn’t worth it to express your opinion about something as trivial as a musical artist or an author you might dislike. If you’re on the fence about expressing your point of view, ask yourself how you’d react if the roles were reversed. Making fun of someone else’s taste is unlikely to spark a stimulating discussion, so keep your disdain for reality TV or genre novels or comic book movies to yourself.
If you must say something, why not ask the other person what they love about the art you can’t appreciate? Maybe it will allow you to view it in a new light. At the very least, you’ll be showing the other person you respect their right to like that they like.