As a Sheriff’s Deputy, I see plenty of folks cussing, yelling and screaming at others and sometimes at me. Outside of that it is rare I experience such strong, negative emotion. Until that is, I open Facebook.
Nowadays it seems like every time I check Facebook I am hit with a barrage of rude, ugly political posts that slam the other political party as idiots, liars, and cheats who are intent on destroying America and all that is decent. Whether its memes, a crudely photoshopped image or a scathing narrative, the theme is to denigrate that person with the ‘right’ point of view.
Here in the USA, free speech is protected under the First Amendment and rightfully taken very seriously. It protects us from the government limiting what we say, with a few important exceptions. The list of exceptions includes fraud, child pornography, false advertising to name a few. It will also not protect you from either direct, personal insults that are deeply offensive to the point they provoke someone to retaliate violently. As well as any direct, personal threats of immediate violence. Basically, we don’t have Amendment protection if we engage in illegal activities or it results in violence.
What I see on Facebook is most likely covered under Freedom of Speech provision. (I would hope it doesn’t drive anyone to violence.) So yes, we are free to express our anger and vitriol towards another, but the side effect of this freedom is the diminution of civility.
Civility is formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech. That is, even when we disagree, we approach the other in a way that doesn’t incite, devalue or disrespect them.
Despite the online medium promoting detached relating, we should never forget that our targets are people with the same right to their views as ourselves. If we were to take away the keyboard and the online interface and replace it with a face to face exchange, would we still be so rude and aggressive in our discourse? I doubt it. Facebook and all online communication unfortunately dehumanizes people making it easier to trash another person for their views.
So I am pleading for a return to civility. When you consider posting, please bring to mind the need for politeness, for courtesy for our fellow human beings. Be kind, be loving. Express your views but respectfully, please.
If you want to join me in a movement back to being respectful. Share this post or write something yourself on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.. and include the hashtag #respect
It is time to act.