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Commentary: Should we sacrifice social media or social justice?

Monique Millan, Staff Writer

Monique Millan, Staff Writer

Whether it’s tweeting every five minutes about boredom in class, or sending cryptic statuses about an ex on Facebook – everyone is involved in social media. However, in the digital age, lawmakers struggle to retain our right to speak freely, but they now find themselves caught in an even more difficult spot: How to address the dilemma of cyber bullying.

Social networking has irreversibly affected interpersonal communication, but it has also become an additional task on many of our daily agendas.

It is not only a way to pass the time, but also an outlet for self-expression. We exercise our right to freedom of speech every day, something our Founding Fathers could never have imagined some 200 years back.

Since the inception of the Internet, cyber bullying has gained more prominence in our lives as we become aware of the dangers that it poses to the lives and reputations of millions of Americans young and old. Laws restricting such behavior have spread from sites like Twitter and Facebook, and 2011 were expanded to include text messages, emails and instant messages for students in high school.

Under this legal umbrella, any act considered to fall in this category can be reported to law enforcement or school officials in hopes that they will handle the situation appropriately.

Interestingly enough, this law does not extend to comments or pictures posted on websites.

There are people who hold a firm stance on these types of media, going so far as to supporting a government program aimed at protecting victims of cyber harassment to include adults and those outside of an educational environment.

Cyber harassment may be geared toward stalking or manipulation of one’s image, but what of those who willingly put their lives in the public sphere?

“It wouldn’t bother me if someone put my name out in public. I’m confident in the person I am,” business administration major Jennie Sale said. “For example, tabloids talk about people all the time.”

To be supportive of stricter laws getting passed means restricting the content of all of what people post, comment or argue about online.

Comments people are making about the President, celebrities or laws themselves could be deemed inappropriate and a potential criminal charge.

Placing our trust in the government to determine what is acceptable and what can be defined as bullying may in fact diminish the power of our freedom of speech – the very voice that is cherished by Americans and the world.

Arizona has passed an anti-online harassment bill that doesn’t allow anyone to feel threatened or harassed via electronic communication. Several other states have passed similar laws, such as Alabama, Colorado, and Connecticut, but they all vary on the details. Some focus more on the threats at hand, and others focus more on the stalking issue.

“People oftentimes take things on the Internet as fact, especially in a society where children learn this same thing. It must be regulated,” senior Spanish major Cynthia Latham said. “If there was more regulation, we would be able to see the Internet as a more trustworthy source.”

Other countries do not allow Facebook or Twitter to be accessed at all and while their rights to view this platform for free speech is more in question, their voice is what suffers most.

Not being able to voice their opinions and thoughts is at the heart of what we hold dear as Americans, our right to speak up.

The Dirty is a blog that allows the public to post people on the site with a picture and comment. Readers are allowed to make comments on stories, both good and bad.

“Reckless overreaction to criticism is just as irresponsible as someone who makes a comment that arguably goes too far,” creator of the site Nik Richie said. “Unless you live in a cave, you need to be prepared for some details about your life to make their way online, and that is going to result in some people saying really nice things and maybe a few not-so-nice things.”

The site gives people a chance to voice their thoughts and ideas that may be controversial and entertaining – but remember, that is our right.

In this time of evolving and potentially explosive new types of mass media, the way people brand themselves via their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts makes them fair game to criticism from those who have access to seeing them.

In the digital lives people are living, free speech may twist that vision into something they may regret.

Monique Millan, a senior communications major, is a staff writer for the Campus Times. She can be reached by email at monique.millan@laverne.edu.

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