Free speech is like free will


Locked door at La Recolate Cemetery in Buenos Aires

Free speech is like free will. It doesn't mean you have to keep your doors open to everything. It means you control your own doors instead of worrying about someone else's, and they return the favor. 

After the dust has settled of trying to find alternative social platforms (and I tried many), I've setting on MeWe and Gab. MeWe is very nice, and I've been there several months, but it's also probably going to be the first one to remove content like Facebook and Twitter, since they seem to be doing that somewhat. Still, I'm there, my family is there, and we chat. I will keep it for now.

Gab is different.

Gab is the Wild West. They own their own servers and can't be targeted by Big Tech since they already were a few years ago and built to be independent. So on Gab, you'll find people saying all kinds of things you're not used to seeing on social media (unless you're a leftist; then you can say almost anything).

Free speech is something most of us aren't actually used to after years of conditioning on social media to change what we say to not get censored. Additionally, you have the reality that the internet causes people to say things they might not say in person. We've come to loathe our social censors, but also assume they are there to shave off the sharp edges of ugly.

Gab doesn't do that.

Unless it's truly illegal and/or you are advocating actual violence, you can say anything you want. This is upsetting to some, and I'm seeing people complain about content they think shouldn't be there, why isn't it removed, etc. We have generations (and a culture) used to others doing the dirty work for us. We want to login and not have anything unpleasant. It's that icky permeation of delegating the responsibility for staying safe and living how we are comfortable to someone else. It is YOUR responsibility to do these things.

The real problem is that we don't control ourselves and don't want to be controlled, but we want others to be controlled for our "safety." Gab provided the communication tools, but people who are fleeing other social networks are demanding filters and curbs on some kinds of speech, and not seeing the irony in that. It's like becoming upset that the knife you are using cut you. If you want to use a knife, be aware it cuts. If you want to speak freely and join in with other people, be aware they will do the same.

I've come up with some personal rules.  Yours may be different.

1. Understand that free speech is verbal free will.

As I said in a comment to someone upset at the outspoken beliefs of a person who has a high-level position here at Gab... 

"There's a lot of stuff I don't appreciate, but it's not up to me to control what someone else says. I know we're all responsible for the words we say, so that keeps me in check, personally. My words are what I answer for. [...] I set my own parameters of what I think God would want me to consume. If I come across something I decide is not edifying, I will block that person. But I don't ask them to leave. I basically excuse myself from the room. [...] Gab can be what you want it to be. You find what you're seeking, as with anything in life. I don't want to seek that kind of content, so I don't look for it. And, when it comes to me or I stumble across it, I close the door. If a guy who built a bridge is personally someone I would find repulsive, should I not use the bridge? Free speech is super tough to be around, but we all want it for ourselves. And that's why this is becoming THE issue."

Free speech is super uncomfortable for everyone at some point. You're either going to get angry or turn into a mocker. If you're standing in the middle of a highway and the cars speeding past you are freaking you out, get off of the highway instead of calling the police and asking them to remove the cars. It may bother you that those cars are still out there, but choosing offense and choosing to be angry that people exist that you don't agree with are your mental and spiritual problem to conquer.  You're responsible for where you go, what you choose to see, and how you respond. That's it. 

2. God doesn't look favorably at mockers.

I enjoy a good meme or funny video, too, and there are times where the line is pretty faint between pointing out a necessary absurdity and mocking. But I don't want to be a mocker. I don't want to make it my habit to go after people and make fun or say derogatory things about how they look, what they do, what they've created, or what they think.

I'm seeing people, for example, mock various conservatives who have come over to Gab because they weren't there earlier and are inferior for sticking with Twitter, or suggest that some people are just grifters. It's weird to see some mock those who have come over to Gab and also mock those who haven't. 

Oddly, some really like to mock Parler's creators. Why? So it happened as it did. So you'd do it differently. So you have opinions. So Gab was built before Parler and learned its lessons early on. Share your meaningful thoughts by all means and warn people or point out what needs to be known, but you don't have to endlessly mock or take glee in the failure of someone legitimately trying to build or create something. It's not easy to create something, especially something big, and then be a target from all directions. Just let it be and build what you're going to build and let others do the same. 

I don't want to be a habitual mocker, for myself or for someone reading what I put out or share. It has a way of poisoning how you see everything. All things become cynical and pathetic and you discourage instead of encourage.

3. You're not a failure for blocking people.

It's a strange thing how, when you block people or control the discussion on your own feed or in your own group that you are called a cuck, pathetic, shill, or whatever else is out there, yet you're also shelled if you mention wishing some people didn't say things. You can't tell parents they should just change the channel when something is on that they don't want their kids to see, and then get upset when it's your show they won't let them watch. You have to accept the reality that your freedom to speak any and all things doesn't equal my forced consumption of it. Freedom goes in both directions. If it doesn't, it isn't freedom.

There are things I no longer want to be exposed to because I know it harms me in various ways. The solution isn't to run to the site owners and make that content be removed or report every mean comment, but to take the action to set those parameters through blocking or muting accounts, and being mindful of who I follow.

On my blog, I moderate comments heavily. I didn't used to, but things are different online than 20 years ago. And because I don't want to fall into the trap on other social media where I'd argue endlessly and get all worked up over some random person attacking me or my position, I made a spiritual and mental choice: I block. 

I'm not afraid of new ideas or conflicting opinions, but I also can't un-see or forget some things. So I block things that God is telling me not to consume, things that prick my conscience or set me on a course to speaking words I wish I hadn't. This might be different for you, but for me it includes images/comments/accounts that are violent, sexual, hate other people, excessively mocking, foul language, seem to enjoy harassment of others, become fixated on you to harass or excessively respond, hate Jesus with great aggression, or only there to stir up argument.

I don't even want to try to explain or defend myself or a position anymore. I'm to the point I just block and walk away. I've wasted too much of my life fretting about someone's opinion on my opinion on social media and it was for nothing but internal stress and anger.


Social media is what you make it. 

You find what you're looking for, but it takes some work. Different platforms have their own way of creating, sharing, and finding content, but the gist is still the same. Put the time in to find the people and groups you enjoy. You'll stumble across some things you don't like at first, so avoid or block. That's all part of building it. If you show up for a few days and immediately gripe that no one is controlling what is said, or there's no one there, or you don't like such and such, you're really not sincere about it. When you first started at Twitter or Facebook, it was the same. Building a new habit and new social group is tough, and it's easy just to gripe about it not being what you're used to.


Jim Wetzel said…
"If you're standing in the middle of a highway and the cars speeding past you are freaking you out, get off of the highway instead of calling the police and asking them to remove the cars."

Seven or eight years ago, I had a Facebook account. You know how it worked: if you told it where you went to school, or what church you go to, it would immediately push many people at you as candidates for Facebook "friendship." Not seeing what was coming, I cooperated. Some of these folks were incredibly ready to -- no, insistent upon -- sharing their political opinions in very strong terms. I learned that lots of people that I used to like ... well, I didn't like them so much any more. My Facebook "feed" became a burden to me, a source of vague dread. I'd feel like I had a duty to look at it, but I really didn't want to.

In due course, I exercised the get-off-the-highway option. It works well, too.

Recently, I opened a MeWe account, entirely because it is home to a couple of groups I'm interested in. (Mostly to read, although I've posted a few things.) I told MeWe very, very little about myself. Thus, I don't have a bunch of MeWe friends. I think this'll work out fine.
Julie said…
My school on Facebook was the University of General Literacy and Thinkin' and they have never stopped asking me where I worked or went to school. At one point I put that I worked for Lone Prairie Art Works, which is my business and true. But sure enough, during the pipeline protest, I had people trying to get me fired by my "employer." It's all a trap. Never put your school or employer, at the very least.