It’s not censorship when you’re on my turf.
We’ve all been there. It's one of the most common experiences in all of social media. You post something vaguely political on Facebook — maybe about the upcoming election, a zoning issue in your local town, or something about how certain people’s lives matter — and, within seconds, there’s a response on your wall that absolutely MORTIFIES you.
It could be a co-worker, your best friend’s spouse. Heck, it could be your mom. And they’ve now proudly displayed their embarrassing reaction to your off-hand Facebook status update that is now visible for EVERYONE in your social circle to gawk at. What do you do?
You delete it.
No worries, no hesitation — you delete their comment and, if it keeps happening, you unfollow the person, even if they’re your mom. You do not allow that crap to keep occurring on your Facebook page.
I know that feels strange. I’ve deleted comments that I’ve found objectionable before and, occasionally, someone else (or the original poster) will follow up with remarks like “Not interested in hearing the other side, eh?” or “Censoring your FB feed isn’t going to change the truth.”
And those comments can make you feel icky, like you’re some kind of tyrannical government, a gross caricature of Soviet Russia or Orwell’s 1984, hell-bent on suppressing open and honest discourse.
But there’s an important thing to remember — No one has the right to free speech on Facebook.
NO ONE. Particularly on your personal Facebook wall.
Facebook is NOT a public place. Yes, you can set your privacy options to “Public,” that doesn’t mean that it’s truly a public location.
Facebook is a private company, owned by Mark Zuckerberg and lots of other people. And your Facebook profile and wall, in a sense, belongs to you and Zuckerberg and all of his stakeholders. (And maybe a bunch of other nefarious behind-the-scenes people — I haven’t read the updated terms and conditions in a while.)
So, while, yes, people do in a general sense retain their right to “freedom of opinion and expression,” on Facebook and most social media platforms, they don’t have the right to throw their opinions and expressions around anywhere they like.
The same applies to real life. As an American, you have every right to declare out loud that Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing, but you do not have the right to argue your case in a McDonalds or in my daughter’s elementary school classroom for as long and loud as you please.
Private spaces are still private spaces and Facebook, even though it’s such a part of our everyday lives, is one of those spaces.
I am way too much of a chicken to unfriend that guy I kinda remember from high school, but I will mute and unfollow him in a heartbeat. It’s WONDERFUL.
Why? Is it because I’m a cruel, censorship-loving internet dictator? No.
It’s because my Facebook wall is about ME, not you.
The vast majority of people who use Facebook are not looking to open themselves freely to every opinion in the world. They just want to see pictures of their friends’ kids. Or dogs. Or they want to take a quiz. Or it’s the easiest way to stay in touch with their sister.
It’s a portal out into the world that belongs to us, that we tailor to fit our needs.
And, if someone starts filling up that portal with racist comments or remarks that keep calling your other friends “betas” or “sheeple,” why would you ever keep allowing that to happen?
People you object to don’t have an inalienable right to express themselves in your Facebook reality. They’re not making any savvy political points that you really should keep an open mind about. And you have no obligation to listen to any political arguments if you don’t want to.
NO ONE has EVER been won over by a snarky political comment or meme on Facebook. Not once.
The political discourse on Facebook exists to reinforce existing opinions and prejudices. And, when you see one of those comments that really gets your blood boiling, even if it’s from a cousin who’s “pretty OK” or the lady who sits next to you at work, why would you EVER tolerate that?
I’m not saying you should confront the person, but definitely, you need to delete or hide that comment and mute that person permanently on Facebook.
Because you can’t let your own “freedom of speech guilt” allow you expose yourself to toxic crap that you KNOW you don’t want to see.
And that’s not censorship. That’s not fear.
That’s YOU exercising your own freedoms.