Let Freedom Ring -- Just Don't Be So Embarrassing
July 2, 2013
The freedom we have today is the direct byproduct of the determination our forefathers fought for to establish the United States of America as a free country in 1776.
That American Revolution was facilitated by a system of signals and word-of-mouth communication.
Today, revolutions are facilitated by social media.
The ability to congregate online, form communities, and have real-time dialogue has given everyone a new voice.
Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate one's opinions and ideas to anyone who is willing to receive them. (That right, however, is not absolute and is commonly subject to limitations, such as slander, obscenity, ethnic hatred, copyright violation, and leaking classified information, just to name a few.)
Social media has elevated free speech and offered the ability to change cultures and sometimes even depose dictators.
People no longer have to feel alone. We can share our stories globally.
That's the essence of this social space – to raise our capacity to connect with each other. Here at home, while we've had a few "revolutionary" type stories of social good coming from these platforms, too often, the good is overshadowed by questionable use.
It's as if the social space is viewed in this country as an "unrestricted playground" – a place where you can do and say whatever you want – regardless of the impact.
And while many questionable posts or tweets get deleted, acting as if it never happened, (and maybe even followed up with the obligatory "sorry if anyone was offended,") "my bad" doesn't erase cybernated slop from your reputation.
We have news organizations posting wrong information without verification, "Weiner-gate" type gaffes, along with celebrities and everyday people throwing childish temper tantrums on Twitter.
Alec Baldwin, for example, famous for his fits recently went off on a writer who wrongly accused his wife of tweeting during James Gandolfini's funeral:
Baldwin's anger is justifiable, however, for anyone (Baldwin is not alone here) to be so unsophisticated with this new "power" that social lends every voice is embarrassing.
When you look at how social media leads to a new and stronger voice, it's disturbing that while we watch other cultures such as Saudi women use social as a tool to win the right to vote, or Turks using it to protect human rights, here in the USofA, we seem to hear more about how people such as Erik Rush, a columnist, use social to make a Muslim joke after the Boston Marathon bombings:
Rush eventually said that tweet was sarcasm.
Everyone has the right to say and post whatever they wish. But with the freedom of expression heightened by social media comes responsibility. And it should be no surprise if and when you are judged by others or lose opportunities because of your digital debris.
The good news is, is that it's not all trash on social platforms.
We have seen everyday people using these channels to facilitate change, like when Max Sidorov, a nutritionist from Toronto, took to social to stand up for Karen Klein, the 68 year old bus driver bullied by teenage kids. There was also the time when 100,000 women found each other socially and raised $3 million for Planned Parenthood after Susan G. Komen initially announced it would stop funding that organization (they ultimately reversed that decision.)
The power of social media continues to be tested, but there is no question that these platforms have given people a new voice.
How you chose to exercise the freedom of this new voice is your right.
But for those using social media as a catalyst for good, for information, education or simply helping someone laugh, you are the spirit of what our forefathers fought for – to make this world a better place.
Let freedom ring.
Reach out to me anytime on Twitter @lorilewis.
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