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Netiquette: ‘Freedom Of Speech’ And Its Misuse

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Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp – these and other platforms of their ilk have become a testing ground; an open space for the majority of the world to practice their freedom of speech. People express their views, both offensive or pleasant, and their talents and ideas through these platforms. But one thing that many forget, irrespective of the fact if they are literate or illiterate, is the appropriate use and thereof the understanding of freedom of speech.

Expletives are a common sight and offensive language has become a trend. Individuals fight and argue over useless and trivial issues rather than getting involved in healthy debates and discussions. Freedom of speech has become freedom of abusing, manipulating and threatening.

Not only common citizens, but leaders, politicians and celebrities are also seen mishandling this right to free speech and expression, even with the knowledge that people look up to them and that they might be an inspiration for many, and thus they should be careful about the usage of words. People have totally forgotten the etiquette (or as it is called netiquette) of using social media for expressing their opinions.

One thing to be kept in mind 24/7, is that our words not only reflect our personality, they also mirror our environment, while suggesting our upbringing and the manner of our grooming. Our words have the caliber of constructing and destructing our own, our family’s and above all, our country’s reputation.

What we say about others also says a lot about us.

Anyone enjoying freedom of speech should be aware of the responsibility that comes along with it.  Social media is utilised by millions of people all around the world. One should be cognizant of the fact that the views they express would be read and at times evaluated by people from different cultures, societies, religious backgrounds and nationalities. There are social norms and cultural practices that may seem inappropriate to you but are cherished by those who practice it. Nationalism is also a worldwide phenomenon, and no one is going to let their own country down. Engage others intellectually rather than emotionally. If you are discussing ideas, have some references handy. Give your arguments the weight of stats and numbers, not anger or mindless assertion. Take care of cultural characteristics as they differ the most. Always practice extreme caution while talking about religion. Those who belittle other religions in the name of freedom of speech are delusional and wrong.

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If you are posting something then beware, you are representing your mentality and personality. It shows your concern and the causes you care about. Think before you speak or post anything.

You are going to be held responsible for your words so maintain your grace, choose suitable words and do not misuse the advantage of having freedom of speech while living in a free country.

Nobody would like to live in a society where respect does not prevail. Stop spreading hatred because things and situations have a strange way of coming back to us.

“Hate has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”

(Maya Angelou)

So, respect others regardless of their age, caste, or difference of opinion. Aggressive and disrespectful behavior has never been a solution to anything, but it is a way to create more problems.

Engage yourself in healthy discussions while choosing appropriate words for expressing your ideas and thoughts. Let’s make our societies a better and peaceful place to live through the use of proper words. Words, as the saying goes, once uttered can never be taken back. They can make or break matters, as if possessing a theurgic quality.

American pastor Joel Osteen puts it this way, “Be careful what you say. You can say something hurtful in ten seconds, but ten years later, the wounds are still there.”

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