We live in a social media dominated world. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Pinterest – if you are not a user of at least two or more of those services , then you are not only not normal, you are the anomaly. That’s certainly true if you are in your 20s and 30s (and younger) anyway.
One of the biggest benefits of social media is that it has allowed us all a platform to air our views and opinions to the wider world, the freedom to express ourselves, the freedom of speech. Today you can log into your twitter account and say something and publish it to the world immediately. It’s a simple concept, but something our past generations could not possibly contemplate. And people are utilising this novelty of the modern world to its fullest. Just take a look at Facebook or Twitter during any major event – be it the Olympics, a major natural disaster, or the death of a controversial political figure – and you will see entire cavalcades of people airing their opinions on the matter at hand. You might say that’s one of the benefits of living in a democratic country, that modern technology allows us to indulge in.
However, this brings me to the question – does freedom of expression necessarily amount to freedom of speech? One thing that has always struck me while witnessing the unfolding of any major world event through social media is how there always seems to be an unspoken right or wrong opinion at every step. It’s quite simple really – you agree with my opinion on something and we’re all friends and jolly and all is right in the world. However if you disagree with me on something, specially if it’s somewhat of a contentious topic like gay marriage, immigration, healthcare, etc., then you are wrong and I have lost a lot of respect for you and definitely do not like you much, only because you had a different opinion than mine. Let’s be really honest, we witness this day in day out in today’s world.
The point I’m trying to make here is that we are not tolerant towards opposing opinions, not really. Opinions only matter if they agree with ours and fit certain criteria. Social media does allow us the freedom to express ourselves readily and openly, however it is still a long way to go before we can really start accepting others’ opinions for what they are. That unfortunately seems to be the state of the world we are living in. Unless I am personally threatened by someone’s opposing views and fear for my own safety, is it really that hard for me to just accept a difference of opinion without losing respect for that person? Aren’t differences of opinions part of what make the world an interesting place to live in?