Social Media and Free Speech

Social Media and Free Speech

Hello Rebels, and welcome back to my life.

Let’s talk about social media, which is both a wonderful method of communicating to people with similar interests across the world, and a horrible timesuck that can take up hours of our lives that could be spent doing more productive things.

That sounds harsh, but despite the amount of time we can and do spend on social media, it can also be really great!

Not only have lots of important political movements happened on Twitter, from the Arab Spring to the Black Lives Matter movement, but it’s a great place for charity fundraisers and other important IRL work that needs a place where people can talk to each other remotely.

It’s also a place where we can more easily talk to people who have wildly different experiences from our own, engaging in discussion that opens up our minds about the world and how others experience it.

But with that open discussion comes a downside. While it’s much easier for us to communicate to other people whose experience is valuable, by social media’s very nature, it’s also possible for literally anyone to show up and talk to us.

Sometimes that’s a good thing. I wouldn’t know any of you guys who I know online, or the awesome people I know on Tumblr or Twitter, if people couldn’t reach out to each other.

But then, there are the less desirable elements of the Internet.

I’m not JUST talking about trolls here. A simple troll is a relatively easy thing to deal with, as long as you don’t feed them.

But there’s also people who just want to get all up in your face and ruin your day. They’re not looking for honest discussion.

They’re looking to confirm whatever idea they have about who you already are as a person, which is a fixed idea they’re entering the conversation with.

Right or wrong, valid or invalid, it’s exhausting to deal with. And I have a TINY following on all social media platforms.

Meanwhile I follow a bunch of people in online spaces who have HUGE audiences and they are attacked by these people ALL THE TIME. Some of them engage in these conversations, which just requires so much more patience than I am capable of.

But a lot of them take what I think is a totally great, totally acceptable option: they block.

Boom. The offending person is blocked. Their tweets or Tumblr posts or whatever are no longer visible. They’re out of your life.

Now, some of these people take being blocked as a sign of victory. That because the person they’re targeting no longer want to waste time on them, they’ve won.

If they want to believe that—fine, whatever. But other people will get angry at being blocked, and one thing they’ll sometimes say is that it’s “censorship” or “violates their freedom of speech.”

Mm, no. No. No. That is not correct. That is wrong. It is false. Invalid. Horse puckey.

Freedom of speech is a wonderful right. It should be protected. It should be valued.

But the freedom of speech HAS to come with a corollary right: the freedom to ignore.

If other people don’t have the right to ignore, freedom to speech breaks down really quick. If I’m in my house, no one has the right to come in and start yelling at me.

In TV and media, news reporters have the right to say whatever they want. But I can’t be forced to listen to what they have to say. I get to choose whether to watch CNN or Fox News or the Daily Show, or to watch neither one of them at all.

Because it’s my home, and, even closer, my head.

And that’s what a social media platform is. That’s what online spaces are. They are NOT public places.

Your Facebook profile or Twitter timeline is YOUR space. You own it. And you can fill it with whatever you want, and remove anything you want from it.

Remember that the next time someone’s being a jerk online. If you are one of those people who likes to engage in debate, fantastic! You might be doing a great service—if not to the person you’re arguing with, then to other people who might be listening.

But you don’t OWE it to anyone to listen to people who really have no interest in listening to you back.

That’s it for today, Rebels. A special shoutout to my supporters on Patreon who make my YouTube channel possible. If you want to be one of those people, or to get signed copies of my books, there are links in the description to both of those things.

Thank you so much for watching, and I will see you tomorrow. Byyye.

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at garrettbrobinson.com.

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