This is an incredibly poignant time to be writing about free speech, after this week’s utterly tragic Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and the recent near-shut-down of Sony’s The Interview screenings by North Korea hackers in the USA. It seems to me that there has been no other point in history where speech has been so free, and yet so moderated all at once.
I love the internet. It is, after all, my job: I am surfing, as it were, that ocean of information out there on a daily basis, looking for news, creating content, and (I hope) entertaining readers from around the world-wide-webbed globe. I have seen beautiful things happen online: from fainting goat videos to entire social movements, like the compelling #Illridewithyou Twitter trend, where thousands of Australians offered their support for Muslims around the country at a time of fragility.
I love it: it’s inspirational, motivational and educational. But I also can’t help but feel inherently afraid of the online world.
What the internet giveth, the internet taketh away
This very thing that keeps me in employment, that makes me a living, could one day destroy my reputation, my career, my life. We’ve all seen it happen, whether it’s a leaked photograph, a mis-sent email, or a full-blown Twitter storm surrounding some throwaway comment or unpopular opinion. Sometimes it’s as simple as just doing your job: see the GamerGate Scandal for a sensational example of irrational online hatred. The internet can make and/or break a person in the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen.
This is why, until now (hopefully), I’ve been overly reserved with my opinions online (hell, I’m even aware right now that any mention of Charlie Hebdo and free speech in the same post could earn me a barrage of abuse for a variety of groundless reasons). I tweet, but not too often, and rarely write or talk about anything contentious enough to rile cyberspace into a rally against me. I’m almost certain I’m not the only individual who feels this way: so conscious of my digital reputation that I squash my feelings, opinions and thoughts for fear of criticism from my peers and worse. It seems we have become our own worst enemy on the platforms where free speech is at its most prolific.
A New Year’s resolution
As a writer, and a person with the basic human right of free speech, I feel I ought to be doing more to flex my opinionated muscles online. Recently, a good friend of mine has shown me that it’s possible, productive and probably pretty cathartic to put it all down on paper (or an LED screen as it happens to the be way these days), as I discovered his own very personal blog, where he shares some arrestingly intimate details of his mind and life, no holds barred.
I too have a voice, albeit somewhat currently unheard; I have feelings and I have a means with which to communicate them, and so here is my New Year’s resolution for 2015:
While there’ll likely be nothing juicy, out of the ordinary, or scandalous to say, this year, whether the internet likes it or not, I’m going to share with you my reflections, predictions, and random postulations right here (and maybe elsewhere, if anyone sees fit to publish them) on this blog.