As I was out walking the other morning, trying to get some fresh air, I sent out a tweet that read:
“Anxiety: you should stay in today in case you die from some kind of meteor shower or cancer or something.
Me: *Picture of me being outdoors*”
A fairly simple tweet, nothing particularly funny, inspirational or witty about it, but it was how I felt that morning so wanted to share my accomplishment. No sooner had I sent it, I began to worry that people may take offence to it. Will someone battling cancer see my tweet and be offended? Will a follower who lost someone to cancer think I’m making light of the situation. I was about to delete it but then I stopped, reminding myself that even if someone did take offence to my tweet, that wasn’t my intention. These are my real thoughts, this is exactly how I’m thinking – there’s nothing funny about cancer, worrying about cancer, having cancer or even losing your life to it, but I was worried it would be taken that way.
This got me thinking about the internet as a whole and the way in which information is shared, stories are told and people are berated for simply sharing their life. Recently, a guy on twitter wrote a post about how, in a large chain restaurant, his 4 year old daughter was mistakenly given an alcoholic beverage by a waitress instead of the fruit juice they had ordered from the kids menu. He had in no way blamed the waitress, he even made light of the situation at the beginning unaware that the alcohol she had consumed would in fact make her quite drunk and require medical advice. This was a guy, sharing a story about something that had happened in a light-hearted way with a message behind it.
Well, that story was shared…a lot! So much so, the press picked it up and before you know it, his face is at the top of the Daily Mail website with his picture and an inaccurate representation of what had happened, and what followed really shocked me. The abuse aimed towards the guy was unreal. He was called a bad parent, blamed, his daughter called a slut and he was accused of creating the whole story for compensation and payment from the paper (none of which happened, they haven’t taken any legal action against the company and asked the papers to donate to charity). Admirably, he took everything in his stride, replying to ‘trolls’, negative comments and seeing the humour in some of what people were saying, but it got me thinking about exactly what we share on here. He wrote a post, much like I’m doing now, to share a story that happened and to warn others, and in the end had his face plastered all over the papers and getting comments from allover the world slating him.
Lewis Hamilton recently shared a video in which he told his nephew he shouldn’t be wearing a dress because “boys don’t wear princess dresses”. This was met with a ‘public outcry’ of people so offended they were calling for him to be sacked, lose his racing contracts, all of his sponsorships, everything. Now, although I don’t agree with the sentiment, kids – and people – should be able to wear what they want and act however they choose, but to vilify someone in such a way based solely on their own opinion and decide that their whole life should be torn apart? I find this absolutely terrifying. He was forced to write a public apology addressing the matter, reaffirming his love for his own nephew and ensuring people knew he did not intend to cause any offence.
There’s that word again – offence.
We live in a world where we’re fortunate enough to have freedom of speech. We’re allowed to share our life, our opinions, our thoughts and feelings and in doing so, albeit factual, law abiding and correct, will not incur any consequence because it is merely how we think and feel. Yet somehow, we’ve become a nation of the offended. No one can say anything anymore without someone becoming offended, upset and people having their whole lives taken away from them. Yes, I believe we should all be kind, considerate and respectful of other people’s feelings, but should the fact that people become offended mean that we now have to filter everything we say? I don’t agree with everyone all of the time, but that’s where my opinion comes into play, healthy debates are had and people act like adults.
Do we really want to live in a society where we daren’t say anything for fear of upsetting someone? Are we in danger of becoming so offended by everything, that education no longer plays a part in our daily lives? After all, the old saying goes “you learn something new every day”, are these not opportunities for us to learn and be open minded?
I’ll continue to tweet about my life and the world the way I live and see it. I don’t mean to cause offence, I treat people with nothing but respect and kindness all of the time and to the best of my ability. If you don’t like my message, or I cause you some offence, lets have a healthy discussion, lets talk it through and at worst lets agree to disagree. Don’t kill our freedom of speech.