I feel stifled and it has been growing worse over the past few years. I have always been known for having opinions and something to say or questions to ask about everything. It only is logical that I have an “opinion” column and happen to be quite active online. But times are a changing. Let me explain…
The media through which information is shared is constantly growing. From radio to podcast, from television to online news, from newspapers to social media, from journalists to citizen reporting, how and who we get our news from is shifting. This has a benefit because it allows us to get different perspectives and views, which gets us closer to getting the whole picture of what is really happening. This has also created an information overload to the point where we are all paralyzed by the amount of information available. Instead of getting the whole picture we are now completely at a loss about what is really happening.
When the news was the business of certain news channels, than one can easily identify the agenda or the perspective on the stories that will be reported on there. However, now that the source of news and information is increasing, it is a bit difficult to know who stands where and why they choose that angle, especially when it comes to individuals. As spaces for citizen reporting increase, especially on social media, so do the challenges of verification of information.
I will be the first to admit that the good thing about social media is that it “democratizes thought leadership” by providing a space for everyone to voice their views, opinion and become thought leaders. At the same time the biggest challenge of social media is that it is a space where everyone and anyone can express their opinions, no matter how destructive. The fact that anyone is now a source of information has made it difficult with parsing between the opinion and the fact. And in that world, emotions run high, political correctness is mandatory and you are either with or against, anti or pro, there seems to be this very bipolar way of interpreting everything.
Social media is all about developing followers and becoming an influencer and creating trends. And in this climate, you find that many are in fact writing to please their audience and increase followers. There seems to be a big focus on “speaking truth” while at the same time being politically correct so as to appease and increasing ones following and not offend. This is a very delicate space to be in as it creates space for “alternative facts”. On top of all of that, there is a certain mob mentality with self-designated “thought police” evaluating the “political correctness” of comments and views and barraging those who have dared to voice opposing or even divergent views. So, if you are going to voice any opinion about something that matters, do so at your own risk.
So it is no surprise that I find myself writing my thoughts down and preparing to post them somewhere but then, I press delete instead. I feel the urge to voice my opinion about something in a conversation with those around me and then I bite my tongue and remain silent. I self-censor. I cannot express what I really think. I feel stifled. There is no space for people to question, self-criticize or evaluate their beliefs, existing ideals and society. Not in person, not online.
Amidst all of this I am scared of losing my real inner voice and begin to feel that my self-censored one is my real voice which makes it all confusing. But I have hope.
We cannot fault others for creating such an environment, we are all responsible and sadly we are all victims. My wish for 2010 is that we allow ourselves to question our own ideals and learn to listen, and not simply react, to each other. May our country’s best years be ahead of us.