Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The First Amendment, Social Media, and Blogs

To Americans, the First Amendment to the US Constitution is probably the most important one of all. That amendment grants us the freedom of speech, the freedom to say whatever we want to way, whenever we want to say it. It carries over into the freedom to write whatever we want to write. With a certain exception, and that is, if what we write is libelous against someone, then that is illegal. But most people don't go that far.

In recent years, social media has become one of the most important parts of our lives, in terms of keeping in touch with friends and family, and allowing Internet strangers to get to know us, and we to know them. But social media has also become a battle ground of discrimination, politics, religion, and perhaps worst of all, bullying.

What does the First Amendment have to do with social media? Aren't we all granted the right to say what we want , when we want, and wherever we want? What so many people don't seem to understand, and most of all, the kids who use this media so viciously, is that with "Rights" comes that other "R" word, "Responsibility." No matter what opinions we have about politics, religion, and people of other ethnic and racial groups, we have the Responsibility to keep our written thoughts  civil. Yet, every day there is something posted on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media spots that is full of hate and self-righteous indignation about something or someone who doesn't agree with that person.

The worst of these is the KIDS and their vicious bullying of another child or teen. How many times do we read in the papers or watch on the TV news about a kid who has killed him/herself because of the extreme bullying on the Internet by both her friends, class mates, and even other kids who don't even know her but are stirred up by others' remarks? They have NO sense of responsibility. But you know what? These kids are not to blame. Their parents are. Their parents who have not taught them the meaning of being responsible for what they say and do; parents who don't monitor what their children/teens are saying and doing on the Internet; parents who have in many instances disengaged from raising their kids, and have turned that responsibility over to others.

Then there are blogs. We all have blogs. You're reading one right now. How much does the First Amendment have to do with what we write on our blogs? Because we are on the Internet, a blog has no expectation of privacy, so anyone can read what we write, either by design, or because someone is just messing around on the Internet and finds a blog by mistake. Aren't we guaranteed the right to speak freely on our blogs? Can't we write about our thoughts, our opinions, anything we think or feel, on our own blogs?

Well, yes. And no. A blog is public. Everything is out in the open for the entire world to see, regardless of whether we want it to be that way or not. We can't expect our most private thoughts, if we post them, to remain private. How we write, the way we say something, is also protected by the First Amendment. Or...is it? What about the politically extremist blogs, do they have the right to spew out their racially charged expletives, their lies, their vicious and venomous remarks?

Unfortunately, that answer is yes. The First Amendment even covers that kind of offensiveness. The point is...this amendment gives us the right to say whatever we want to say, wherever we want to say it. But once again, with Rights comes Responsibility. There are so many blogs today, right along with Social Media, that abuse this right to the nth degree. Most of them do so intentionally. Just like the kids that use the Internet, both social media sites and their own blogs/websites, to carry out the intense and vicious bullying that all too often ends in the death of the one who is being bullied.

How far can a blog go...how far will Social Media be allowed to go...before the First Amendment will no longer protect it? Or, in this country, where Freedom of Speech is the FIRST freedom we espouse, will that amendment never recant that freedom, no matter how radical or extreme...or lethal...the speech, written or spoken, becomes? Where do Rights end, and Responsibility begin?

Think about it.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.