In October, our theme for the blog is
Where is the love? Where is the line?
Is it just me or do you, too, feel as though wherever you turn these days, there seem to be angry, condescending little comments, complaints and posts? This question has triggered our bloggers to ask this month: Where on earth is the love?
Bloggers Carli and Dana start us off by answering the question of the month:
In a world where it has become socially acceptable to publicly voice your opinion, even if that opinion is hateful – where do we draw the line between freedom of speech and integrity?
I have always felt that no two individuals share the same point of view. Even if you agree on something, your perspective of the issue is shaped by your personal experiences.
There are those who e
njoy a good old fashioned debate, where two differing opinions are discussed (for the most part) rationally, logically and professionally. And then there are those who thrive on the concept that freedom of speech includes the freedom to offend people.
As someone who once dreamed of being a journalist, I truly understand the need to report, to speak up and out, to demand answers, to object, defend and shed light. I know the desire to insert my personal opinion (because that’s all it will ever be is personal no matter how you try to be objective) when I read or hear about something that stirs me in some way. This is a good thing! Without our right to freedom of speech we would not as a society be able to fight for what we believe is right. But what we need to understand, is that just because you can say it, doesn’t necessarily mean you should say it.
We as a society are surrounded by
outlets to voice our opinion, and we truly take that for granted. We are given the opportunity every single day to use our right to freedom of speech to make a difference and instead we use it to hurt, slander, offend, scare, and objectify. We jump on threads that have little to nothing to do with our personal lives and insert whatever we feel like saying in the moment, because it quickly gets swallowed up by all the other comments of people who are doing the exact same thing.
We raise battle calls against cyber bullying, but scream in outrage over incidents such as the Charlie Hebdo attack.
We watch television shows such as Fashion Police with Dove Beauty Campaign commercials in between.
We listen to our politicians make defamatory and negative comments about their competition and tell our children to play nice.
And for every time someone tries to counteract this behavior— they are attacked with renewed vigor because it is their right! Google Ideas is a think tank specifically dedicated to supporting free expression while fighting harassment and recently tweeted a photo with the caption ‘Fighting online abuse’ that was immediately followed with racist, violent, fat-shaming, sexist and ‘go kill yourself comments’. Their response was to calmly note that it was for this specific reason they had created this campaign.
I am all for freedom of speech, but I believe there is a line we must tread carefully with and we need to figure out where we must become more vigilant. My personal self-governance is that if I am not truly passionate about it, if I’m not going to wake up tomorrow worried, concerned, angry or sad about it, then it’s none of my business to comment on it. And if I’m commenting on something just to incur a reaction—I’ve got issues and need a grounding.
Ugh, this question makes me feel all squirmy. I know it’s a loaded question and a hot topic, especially now. The absolute worst place for this is Facebook (and I’m sure Twitter and Instagram too, but I only experience positivity on my accounts because I only post pictures of dogs). I don’t know how it became this way, but I remembered Facebook used to be the place where you would post pictures from a trip and make your status about something exciting, maybe even sad, or just something about YOUR life. Now Facebook isn’t as popular for the younger generations, and I find more and more that people are just using it to share posts from other pages, other people, or use it as a sounding board or to get our their frustrations. (Although I will say my favourite thing right now is the flashback memory thing they have going on!)
That’s fine, I mean if you want to complain on Facebook go ahead. I
personally only like posting a status when something awesome has happened or I think I have come up with some clever and funny commentary that will get me a lot of likes (this rarely happens). But now I see people just going off voicing their opinions to the extreme, and it really has nothing to do with them. I mean, if your car breaks down and you want to vent about it on Facebook, go for it. But I have this one “friend” (who I recently defriended) who is always posting really hurtful statuses that are just way too extreme for Facebook. Once people get upset and start commenting, he always claims he is just “expressing his opinion”. A lot of the time they are about how wrong and horrible abortion is, and he goes on and on about how selfish and wrong it is (regardless of circumstance, may I add) in the comments. Now, it really irks me that he posts this for all of Facebook to see in such a careless way. If you don’t agree with abortion, that’s fine, but keep it to yourself. I don’t really understand why anyone cares about it, just let people do what’s best for them. First of all, you may have caught on that I said ‘he’ (I won’t even get into how upset it makes me when men comment on abortion in such a careless and selfish way, and don’t worry I won’t post about it either!) and his posts come off extremely insulting to women. Lots of friends comment on his statuses (most saying how dumb the post is, why is he posting this, etc.) and he will respond to every single comment defending his opinion and spreading even more negativity. I had finally had enough and realized, why do I even have this guy as a friend on Facebook? I really don’t want to be associated with anyone like this.
I have always been a firm believer in believe what you want but keep it to yourself. Everybody is different and you can only control your own life, and make decisions you are happy with. I would never judge anyone for having an abortion, or not having an abortion. But I do secretly judge people for wearing Crocs (WHY?!) but I would never make fun of that person for wearing them and I wouldn’t publicly shame them for it. I would definitely not attack them for it on Facebook. I just keep it to myself and occasionally ask myself why it even bothers me so much because it has nothing to do with me.
“if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
So, the question is where do we draw the line? To me, it’s simple. Don’t say something or publicly post something that you know is going to bring others sadness, judgement, negativity, or hate. I think it’s important to remember “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” It couldn’t be truer. No one is perfect, and we all have things that bother us, or strong opinions, and judgement, but you can keep it to yourself. You have the right to express yourself and believe what you want, but you don’t have the right to spread hate and hurt to others. I try to remember that we all have our differences, and that’s what makes people interesting. I may not personally agree with my ex-FB-friend’s opinion on abortion, but I have never commented on any of his posts negatively or told him his opinion is wrong. I have wanted to reply that it’s hurtful to those women who have had abortions, or who are struggling with making a decision, but I didn’t. I simply removed him from my newsfeed. He has the right to believe what he believes, but I don’t really want to be friends with someone who expresses themselves like that and doesn’t take others’ feelings into account.
Yes, it’s very easy now to express your beliefs and exercise your freedom of speech. There are many platforms to do this and lots of people will be able to see and comment on it. It would be awesome if we could use these opportunities for important matters, or positive messages. There isn’t much that I can do to stop people who like to post hateful things, or say hurtful things, other than perhaps tell them that it is hurtful and choose not to be associated with them. I’m sure there’s a hashtag out there (#spreadlovenothate #positivethoughtsonly, etc.) that is all for the positive and
#screwthenegative. I am proud to say that I follow this mindset and I don’t have any hate or controversy in my life over my beliefs or opinions. The people in my life and I get along great, and I respect them and their personal opinions, and they respect mine. And, we only post on Facebook funny jokes about Nickelback or Mean Girls quotes to see who will get the most likes (sadly I am not winning).
And, to quote Kevin G from Mean Girls: “Don’t let the haters stop you from doin’ your thang!”