These days there seems to be a growing concern that people can no longer say what they think anymore for fear of being attacked or rebuffed but I have often asked myself if this is actually true.
From where I am positioned it feels as though this is a period of time where people are speaking their minds more and more than they ever did and are also being engaged by other points of view that have remained silent for a very long time.
Prior to this point in time many different experiences and perspectives were silenced for fear of speaking up or not having a platform for which to speak, which to me is not a balanced and inclusive picture at all, but it was the only one this society had for many generations.
A quick look back in time where people were persecuted and tortured for expressing their opinions and sharing their beliefs reminds me we are far better off than those cruel and brutal times.
In this time of social commentary and live footage from anyone with a recording device, our eyes on the world has grown exponentially. No longer are we reliant on the coverage of certain newspapers or politicians and we have access to a whole new dimension of coverage. We are more able to do our own thinking and accessing without being spoon fed information by those who would seek to use it for their own purposes.
People now have more of an opportunity to form their own opinions based on the collective stories on offer.
What people may be growing weary of is the trolling, abuse and uninformed opinions that are out there and ready to chime in at any moment. Sometimes the abuse can be vile and deplorable as keyboard vigilantes dole out the worst hate speech and poisonous rhetoric imaginable. Sadly, there is little we can do to stop such individuals other than to develop an inner filter for such people and accept that there will always be that sort of person out there in one form of another.
In the years that I have lived on this earth I have had my own ignorance, bias and beliefs tested by all those people out there who have bravely spoken out about their experiences or circumstances and I feel I have a better appreciation because of it.
Furthermore, today’s activists have achieved more than previous generations have ever been able to due to the access to media and their willingness to speak out.
The biggest losers to this new found platform, in my opinion, has been the archaic institutions that have dominated the landscape for centuries as they have felt some of their powers curtailed and their opinions questioned.
For everyday people like me I realize that I have the opportunities to express my opinions that I never had before and I, likewise, get to learn from people I may have never heard from before … I can’t help but feel that this is a good thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had my share of trollers and I accept that many people will not agree with what I believe or currently understand, but I am also at peace with that. Those that attack and use vile speech against me I have had to learn to block out, like I would any other annoying noise that has no use other than to cause hurt and pain. However, those that have bought information to me in a clear and respectful way I have truly valued from.
It is human nature that we can not know everything or experience everything the world has on offer. I don’t truly know what it’s like to be anyone else but me at any given stage of my life but I do have the capacity to learn and I relish the opportunity to see the world from different eyes.
What we ultimately decide to believe and how we choose to go forward is still within our control and that hasn’t changed, therefore I don’t truly believe that as a society we aren’t able to say what we think anymore. Perhaps the most remarkable change is that people seem more willing to challenge our beliefs and share their own thoughts on various topics.
I like to believe that everyone has a right to be heard however this is not always the case in many parts of this world. Perhaps for this reason I feel especially proud and protective of my right to do so.
I recall the now famous quote by Evelyn Beatrice Hall…
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
This is precisely my thoughts on the matter and I will always allow someone the chance to say their opinions in the appropriate manner.
The major thing that has changed for me in this current environment is that I choose more carefully those comments I wish to take on board. I am more discriminating when people attack or use cruel or unwarranted language. I ignore those people that I don’t feel I need to respond to or when I don’t believe there is any real value from continuing to engage with them. My filter is stronger and resilient.
Within the era of self expression and social media I find myself more confident in who I am as a person and feel that rather than being alone in my feelings or struggles, I have felt the support and connection of many people the world over that I would never have heard from in generations gone by. I am incredibly appreciative of those people who have come along and helped me grow as a person and encouraged me in my fight to keep going.
Connecting with many voices means we hear things we wish we didn’t have to hear and things that may be incredibly painful to take but it also means we can also hear some of the kindest and most valuable voices in this constantly changing and challenging world.