Today, and for the last week or so really, I've been thinking a lot about what freedom of speech means to me. A lot of it stems of course from the murder of the Charlie Hebdo journalists and staff in Paris last week, but actually part of it has also branched out from some things I've seen happening online lately. A couple of days ago I saw a well-known video blogger post about receiving abuse from some of her online followers, specifically targeting the way she looks. Not just this, but they also were criticising her daughter's appearance in some of the photos she had shared of them together. Seeing this, reading these completely mindless abusive comments, it made my heart ache. Then I saw that someone had called out one of the people leaving these negative comments, telling them if they didn't have anything nice to say, then they shouldn't say anything at all. The response to this was 'I have the freedom to say whatever I want to whoever I want.'
It's true. People have fought and died so that today we have the freedom of speech, but is this really what you think they had in mind when they gave their lives? So that we could troll other people online and tell them they are too fat, too thin, have horrible hair, that their children are ugly. Why do people seem to think that because you have the right to say whatever you want, that you should? Would they say it to the person if they met them face to face? My guess is that they wouldn't, but that the internet gives them protection in a way - they can hide behind an avatar and hurl abuse at people they have never met, safe in the knowledge that there will be no 'real-life' repercussions for them. There is no excuse for it. How would you feel if every time you posted a photo online you had hundreds of people comment on it mocking the way you look, how you're dressed, what colour lipstick your wearing.
I genuinely don't understand why anyone would treat another person this way. The only
answer I have come up with is that these people are jealous and
insecure. It's like my parents always told me - people that bully others
do it because they are weak and have no self-confidence. If they were
strong and confident and happy then they would be too busy getting on
with their own lives to have time to criticise other people's! If it wasn't such an awful way to behave I would almost feel sorry for them.
Sure, there are people online that I don't necessarily enjoy. Their lifestyle isn't one I would like to live, they don't dress in clothes I like, they sometimes do and say things I don't think are very wise, but as long as they aren't hurting anyone or doing anything illegal, then who am I to get involved? What gives me the right to comment on their photos telling them that they are behaving like a prat, that their skirt is so short I can see what they had for breakfast, or that their new tattoo looks awful?
There are people being slaughtered in their hundreds in countries around the world, because of the greed of a few. Children are dying of AIDS, lack of clean water, starvation. Even in this country people are living below the poverty line, or are forced to sleep on the streets. And yet there are those out there who use their voice and their freedom to tell someone on Instagram that they look disgusting. It just isn't right.