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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

I'm Blocking You

If Facebook is the equivalent of the global civic commons, then it follows that its social norms are important.
For example, how we express approval or or disapproval on Facebook is a big deal. What happens when someone shares the news of a tragedy? Do you find yourself going, should I really click "like" on this as though I like it? 
And then you have that conversation with a group of friends where you actually discuss this and someone goes, "Yeah, but the 'dislike' button can be used for bullying," to which you immediately nod your assent.
Facebook is so unimportant, isn't it? But it's actually very important to us all.
What do you get by reading it? Wacky and wonderful videos. Pictures of the family being cute. Amazing images from all over the world. A glimpse into different cultures. News you never would have noticed somewhere else.
Often I gravitate to the heavy stuff. Social issues, current events, politics and religion. I am blessed with a friend group that relishes a good debate. In my world you can pretty much say anything, and it's a safe place to "be yourself."
But there are times when people get really rankled. And then they make the ultimate Facebook threat: "Because you say [this or that or that], I'm blocking you."
Of course, there are times when blocking should happen. That much goes without saying.
But there are other occasions when the threat is based solely on a difference of opinion. It's as if the very existence of a dissenting point of view is perceived as a threat - such a dire threat, in fact, that the person who expresses such a view must be propelled outside one's personal orbit.
I grew up in a very religious town, and I went to religious school. Silencing, marginalizing, shunning and outright excommunication were not unknown phenomena.
But Facebook is not an ultra-Orthodox Jewish yeshiva. It is a secular, worldwide, global forum where anyone with an email address can and should have their say.
I'm not here to tell you what to do with your account - not at all.
I'm not here to promote being rude or abusive to other people.
I am here to say that free speech promotes a functional organization, a functional religion, a functional society, and a healthy world stage.
If we can model tolerance for other views on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or any social media environment - imagine how much more rational a physical world we might actually inhabit.
At the end of the day, it is that rationality - that devotion to logic based on data and reasoned discussion - which will give us the ability to solve the most stubborn problems facing humankind.
Maybe it's a minor thing to bring up the oversensitivity of some to the opinions of others. Maybe you will say that I'm politically incorrect, that I'm fanatical, that I am promoting "micro-aggression."
But I hope that you'll instead consider the negative consequences of a world where every word must be self-censored before it is uttered on a public or private stage. 
That's how insularity, cult behavior and abuse of power breed.
Here's to world peace...here's to the end of poverty and war and violence.
Here's to a Facebook chock-full of critical but respectful free thinkers, engaged in an ongoing dialogue about how to make the world a better place.
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Copyright 2015 Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. Dr. Blumenthal is founder and president of BrandSuccess, a corporate content provider, and co-founder of the brand thought leadership portal All Things Brand. The opinions expressed are her own and not those of any government agency or entity or the federal government as a whole.
Photo credit: mollybob via Flickr (Creative Commons)