I don’t know when common sense became not so common. Perhaps it was lost when people starting using the whole “first amendment rights” to validate the really hurtful and negative things they say. Maybe it happened when we started teaching an entire generation that they don’t need to take responsibility for themselves and that they are entitled to whatever it is they want. Maybe it was lost long before all of that and is something only a select few people really have the grasp of.
Either way, it’s something I have to deal with when I get online and look at the posts people make on social media platforms. It always boggled my mind how people felt so brave behind a keyboard, spouting out their words of hate and cruelty shrouded in the disguise of “it’s just my opinion, lol.” People have this undeniable belief that what they post online is completely safe from repercussions. But the truth is it’s not, and using freedom of speech as your defense is not going to help you.
Back in 2012, a judge in New York ruled that Twitter would have to hand over tweets – even deleted ones – if they were subpoenaed by law enforcement. This is without a warrant. It was a pretty big deal among those of us who use social media for our jobs as well as a day to day basis. This was the first move to show that what you post is equal to what you say, and can be used against you if you do something stupid. A lot of people were angry when this came out, but I breathed a sigh of relief: finally, people will be held accountable for what they are saying whether its out loud or on social media platforms.
Flash forward a few years, and the whole “own up to your words” thing is taking a big splash. Rolling Stone Magazine posted this article, showing examples of how people lost their jobs and sometimes more for posting really ignorant things on social media platforms. And in reading the article I agreed with the punishments that each person had received based on their comments.
Now, before you get angry with me, yes – I believe that each person has a right to their opinion. Yes, I believe that everyone has a right to tell you your opinion sucks. And yes, I have been on both sides: I’ve had opinions and I’ve been told they suck, as well as telling others their opinions suck. This has nothing to do with political correctness. It has everything to do with common sense.
Take Paula Deen for example: whether it was her or her aids that posted the photo in question on her Twitter account, it should have never been take in the first place. It’s bad enough that she took a hit over her previous racism scandal. She should have just known better than to post something like that, whether it was her social media manager or not. Common sense tells you to err on the side of caution.
And what about the employee at the Brookfield Zoo who posted on Facebook about how she was at work serving “rude ass white people?” I mean, are you kidding? Sure, this girl is young: either high school or college. But that doesn’t excuse her complete lack of common sense. She made a racist comment and tagged the zoo in the post. You just can’t expect to say things like that and not expect some kind of punishment, especially after having an influx of complaints about her post into the zoo. She lost her job, and in my opinion, she got off light.
Again, I believe in freedom of speech and that you should have the right to say whatever it is you want. I have sat idly by and listened to people rant about things that infuriated me but I kept quiet because I believe that people have the right to say what they want. I do, however, think that posting hate speech, racist comments, and direct threats against people should not be tolerated and should be investigated to the full extent of the law – especially if it’s done on social media platforms.
Just because it’s your page does not make it a free and clear platform for you to mouth off. Just because you think you have a right to your radical and racist opinion doesn’t mean that the social media page you post it on will allow it to stay there. There are rules for these things, and I believe that soon Facebook will be able to be subpoenaed much like Twitter can be. It’s just a matter of time.
And if you use the first amendment to defend your speech, you might want to look at it again: it’s doesn’t mean what you think it means.