April 10, 2016

Preserving Free Speech on Social Media

social media tree
Love it or hate it, I think we can agree that social media has had a significant impact on how we access information and interact with one another. One of the most appealing things about social media is that it is immediate. You can receive breaking news as it is happening. You do not have to wait for some centralized news reporting organization to collect data, investigate, analyze, and report. You can access the raw data yourself in the form of real-time social media posts.

You can also have real-time conversations with people all over the world. As long as both of you are logged in at the same time, you can engage in a real back-and-forth conversation with others. You can discuss and even criticize ideas with people you would never have the opportunity to meet offline.

You can also use social media to broadcast your thoughts immediately as they occur, which is - for better or worse - exactly how many people seem to use it these days. You can have a thought and tweet it instantly so that anyone who follows you on Twitter is seeing your thought show up in their timeline mere seconds after it was rattling around in your head. You don't even have to stop and think about what you are tweeting before hitting send.

Not surprisingly, there can be a downside to sharing one's thoughts with the world as they occur. Sooner or later, someone is bound to say something incredibly stupid. We all have thoughts from time-to-time that we might be better off not sharing with the world. Of course, doing so is unlikely to have any adverse consequences if nobody notices. Plenty of stupid things are said, and most of them escape detection.

And then there are others which end up being immortalized in the form of a random blog post written for no particular reason.

I got nothing for the White cis man

I suppose the obvious question is what might possess someone to tweet something like this. I'll be the first to admit that I don't know the answer to that. This was not a person with whom I had much interest in interacting. I suspect that it might, assuming it was remotely serious, be an attempt at virtue signaling. As strange as it may sound, the expression of such a sentiment appears to be considered virtuous in some circles. The person who tweeted this has nearly 5,000 followers.

Personally, I am glad that people have the freedom to express things like this and that they exercise their freedom by saying things like this. I'm also glad that I can see them doing so, as I find that it informs my evaluations of them and the sort of people they are. I hope that the people running the various social media networks abandon efforts to suppress the speech of their users. I'd much rather have access to bad ideas. 
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