I was about to comment something funny and clever on Facebook. But when I was about to hit the “post” button, I had second thoughts.
What if this comment would generate a lot of negative comments? What if I get bombarded with hate emails and private messages saying that I’m insensitive, racist, or sexist?
You see I like reading comments on Facebook and YouTube. There are a lot of amusing memes and clever quips from users.
But if someone shares their opinion—an opinion that is different from the majority of commenters—they get a lot of flak. Some people might even say that she doesn’t have a life. And that she is a Debbie Downer. Or a jealous bitch.
I guess I’ve been reading enough online discussions that I believe this is the norm.
And this stirred a fear in me. The fear of being judged.
While I always try my best to share ideas that are positive and delightful, my mind is a house of random ideas. Some of them might be clever while most of them are just plain silly. But still, I’d love to share them from time to time.
It’s odd how the Internet is supposed to be the place where you could speak your mind freely. It’s supposed to create a “democracy” where you can discuss and deliberate ideas with other human beings.
But what happening to me is quite the opposite.
I’ve become hesitant on sharing thoughts that might not conform to the norm.
Another reason why I’m becoming a wimp in sharing my ideas online is because of the grave consequences that other people have already faced for a one-time mistake.
There’s this girl who joked about Africa and Aids on Twitter. And that one tweet turned her life around. In a very bad way. Not only did she lose her job, but also had a hard time finding another one. Worst of all, her family judged and crucified her for the consequences of her mistake. The internet broke her.
Now, I fear that my one stupid, unguarded Facebook post or Tweet might have the same effect. So, most times, I just shut up. Which isn’t a bad option at all. If you’ve got nothing to say, it’s better not to say anything at all.
But I hate feeling like this.
I’m a writer. And I’m supposed to speak my mind. And the Internet is supposed to be something wonderful. Full of fresh ideas. Limitless. Now, I just think it’s a place where people could judge each other instantaneously. Where you could comment on a stranger’s outfit, her life decisions, and make a conclusion of her entire life based on one photo, a six-second video, or a 140-character tweet.
There might be something that could help this fear though. And more importantly, it might help stop cyber bullying and the shame that victims feel when they are attacked online.
Monica Lewinsky, in her Ted talk, proposes a solution: empathy. Quoting from researcher Rene Brown, she said, “Shame can’t survive empathy.”
If we put ourselves in other people’s shoes, we would be more understanding and more forgiving. It’s a little hard to accomplish for conversations online. After all, you only see a profile picture. You don’t really know the whole story behind that one, tiny picture.
Besides empathy, we also need to be more responsible on the things that we say online. Lewinsky continued, “We talk a lot about our right to freedom of expression, but we need to talk more about our responsibility to freedom of expression.”
So, I guess it’s okay that I’m feeling a little scared in speaking my mind. It just means that I’m thinking how my actions online might affect other people.
However, as a writer, I must be brave enough to speak my mind freely. As long as I believe in what I say and that there’s a good reason behind it, I’m going to write it as it is.