The Abuse of Social Media & Freedom Of Opinion

In America or other countries that value the freedom to do and say what one thinks or perceives, it's no surprise that there are those who also abuse such freedoms.  We in America cherish the right to a voice and offer various opinions freely as is our right and those that fought to ensure we always will.  What happens when there are those who abuse this privilege?  There has been a grey line hovering over this country that no one seems to clarify until someone either gets hurt or a situation is turned upside down.   

We live in an era where public opinion rules and dominates our ethics and morals.  Those who go against the grain are usually cast aside in favor of a group or party.  Free thinkers are called certain names, political parties are divided and cultures clash.  There is a saying about having too many captains on a ship.  There's a point when chaos ensues because everyone feels free to basically say or do whatever is on their minds, contrary to how it affects your neighbor or community.  

The idea of unity and "standing as one" without being part of a group seems to be a cheesy sentiment among the masses and to step back is viewed as weakness.  On social media, it is no different.  

I have observed closely over the past few years how sites like YouTube, Facebook and others have an open door policy for people to comment and respond.  You are, of course, free to report or flag a comment that goes too far. However, by the time you have read it, depending on what the comment is, it reached that person and the damage is done.  You can complain and fight back, but it is in one's mind and therefore a part of their being.  Most trolls or individuals who may think their brash outlook or honesty is helping others by the "reality check" mentality fail to realize they are also causing a kind of harm they may be completely unaware of or simply enjoy the art of torturing others, as it gives them a sense of power.   There is a growing mentality that unless you are brash, you are weak or soft.  I present an alternate perspective.  What does it matter when the one you just gave a dose of reality to just killed themself?  Can you go back and tell them "Hey, maybe that was a bit much, my apologies?".  Was your need to give the brash and honest punch helping the one who possibly suffers from anxiety, depression, loss of a loved one, money issues or whatever it may be?  Or did you push them over the edge?  We all know life is tough and if you don't rise to the moment, life can easily run you over.  Be that as it may, us who have this amazing gift of freedom of opinion and actions must have a sense of limits you would think.  We see it in our jobs, where HR will step in if one is out of line, correct?  Back to social media, the main thing I hear from all people who say a nasty comment or opinion geared to clash with someone is that it's their right to do so.  I believe this is true only to a point.  There are actual laws against our citizens that prevent you from doing certain things.  Robbery, murder, crimes, domestic disturbances and so on.  But what about those who attack each other online with words?  Has anyone had a lover, friend, parent or guardian who used only words that felt like abuse?  Some of the way things are said on social media seem disguised as critical thinking and opinions but underneath, seems to be an underlying refusal and excuse to not be civil and poised as a sign of weakness.

The term trolls and bullies seem to now be the new honesty as if you disagree, they have the "freedom" to condemn and shame you in public without a shred of being held accountable. We do see this being done in mass media where many are held to justice for various reasons (That's another subject for a future post) however, myself, I did an experiment and posted my thoughts on letting a fly out of a window instead of killing it "if" possible, fully explaining I thought they were gross and such and anyone could do as they'd personally wished.  The response of hate I had received in comment form was more than any other response I have ever had about anything!  A good 80% called me actual names, others explained why it was important to kill them, however not without following up with calling me a name and then there were those who said to kill me!  These were not just trolls friends, they were normal, everyday people with regular profiles, families and citizens. The majority were also grown adults. If people are so bent on correcting and bashing you over a fly, imagine what they are like for anything greater.

So my conclusion is this: the excuse once again for this behavior is that we are free to do what we want.  I do believe it's reached a point where it's not so much just about what we say or think, but we must also be more attentive to our filters and understand that being an "asshole" is now acceptable as an admired trait.  So I again say, are you proud when the one you were an "asshole" to decides they can no longer handle the pressure of not just your attitude, but because so many now behave this way, they collapse under the wave?  More suicides are caused every year due to nothing more than someone "bashing you to a pulp".  Was it worth your opinion in doing so?  We must understand that even the toughest individual has their breaking point, something that makes them fall to their knees and give up, it only takes the right person to push those buttons.

So in conclusion, when we are online posting to others or even just posting our thoughts, keep in mind, you are taking the time to show your true colors and if your words are not kind, considerate or respectful in nature, then it's no different than trying to explain to a child in school who has no filter that if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.  Not a bad rule for grown adults who profess to being incredibly intelligent. Perhaps that should be made a legal law with consequences online. We may not be far from it.  With great power and freedom comes even more responsibility.  

1 comment

  • Marylin Major

    Marylin Major Scotland

    Your comments are very true Al. I always try to be considerate and unoffending when I make comments online although I've had nasty things said to me for no reason whatsoever. I've never thought about it the way you have in that someone could be feeling suicidal. I feel the reason a lot of people online are nasty is the fact that they know basically they will get away with it as no-one knows who they are to each other so they feel they can treat people like dirt and foul language is another thing - again they feel brave as the Web is a big network and they are just needles in haystacks.

    Your comments are very true Al. I always try to be considerate and unoffending when I make comments online although I've had nasty things said to me for no reason whatsoever. I've never thought about it the way you have in that someone could be feeling suicidal. I feel the reason a lot of people online are nasty is the fact that they know basically they will get away with it as no-one knows who they are to each other so they feel they can treat people like dirt and foul language is another thing - again they feel brave as the Web is a big network and they are just needles in haystacks.

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