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These days, you are looked at as a bit backward if you don’t have some sort of a social media presence.  However, people are becoming more and more calculated about their reputation and what types of topics they discuss on social media.  It’s a smart move for most, but does it mean we’re giving up a certain degree of freedom?

Social Media Gaffes Aren’t Funny Anymore

By now, we all know what you put online could go as far as costing you your job, or turning you into a social pariah.  It seems that the vast majority of our articles on this site, as well as our Facebook posts, refer to someone making a terrible mistake on some social media platform that they end up paying dearly for.  While clearly many people have crossed a line, are we coming to a point where people are afraid to take a stand for anything against the grain?

Over the last two weeks, in the sports world alone, they have had had the leaked tapes of heinous racism from Donald Sterling, as well as the NFL Draft, where the first openly gay college football player, Michael Sam was drafted.  In our present day society, Twitter is an instantaneous platform to share your thoughts. It’s a great way to spread the word quickly, but if you post anything that could be perceived as against the consensus, odds are, you will be immediately vilified.

As Michael Sam was drafted, ESPN had a camera on him as he shared a kiss with his boyfriend.  A member of the Miami Dolphins, Don Jones, wrote the below tweet.

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The tweet was quickly deleted, but the cat was out of the bag.  It wasn’t 24 hours later when the Miami Dolphins suspended and fined Jones and also will force him to attend “educational training.”

Virtual Behavior Impacts Real Life

The comedian, Gilbert Gottfried was fired as the voice of the Aflac duck, for guess what: telling a joke!

The top female in Public Relations at IAC was fired for a horrible racist tweet on the way to Africa.

The CEO of Mozilla was forced to resign recently just days after taking the job when it was found out in 2008 that he donated to a political cause to stop gay marriage in California.

The list of lost jobs for beliefs or things said online goes on and on. There is a fear growing in our country about voicing anything that could be perceived as politically incorrect — and it’s coming close to a breaking point.

Is it Safe to Say What You’re Really Thinking?

With our zillions of cable channels, 24 hour news cycle and endless social media, intelligent people are becoming more and more afraid to share their beliefs on topics.  Along those same lines, if someone does actually comment on a polarizing situation against the grain, they are quickly raked over the coals.

When the Sterling scandal broke, everyone was shocked that someone would verbalize those antiquated and truly horrific thoughts about other human beings.  It was such a cut and dry example of racism that it was hard to see that anyone could take Sterling’s side in regards to the comments he meandered through on tape.

However, take a step back for a minute.  I can guarantee you that there are intelligent people out there who could have written well constructed pieces, that could take one of, if not all of these concocted stances regarding those two topics:

  • Sterling holds terrible opinions, but did nothing against the law, so you can’t seize his property
  • The man is 81 years old, and grew up on a completely different era than now, ingrained racism is hard to lose
  • He was illegally taped and some say baited in an act of extortion in what he thought was a private conversation by a woman who is 51 years younger than Sterling
  • What kind of precedent was set with kicking a man out of a professional sports league for unpopular beliefs?  The owner of the Orlando Magic, Doug DeVos, has gone on the record as being ‘pro-marriage’, and thus against gay rights. If Sterling is removed, shouldn’t DeVos be gone as well?
  • Donald Sterling’s girlfriend V. Stiviano should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for setting up an old man and coercing him to say racist things
  • Having an openly gay player will be a distraction, that regardless of the individual beliefs, a NFL team doesn’t want to deal with the added scrutiny
  • ESPN electing to show a same sex kiss on the NFL draft at a time when many children are watching was irresponsible and puts parents in awkward situation with their children who may be too young for a discussion on homosexuality

Regardless of anyone’s beliefs, we are now in an environment in where writers are afraid to even take a stance on any of the hypothetical positions laid out.  When looking for editorials taking those angles, they are few and far between, and some do contain coherent, well thought out views, but its almost as if we are at a point where people are afraid to construct a strong opinion, and that is a real issue.

Voicing Your Opinion Without Fear

America was founded on democracy, and debate.  We have two fervent political parties, we can voice our opinions with our ballots, and our laws are mostly based on what the majority of our country thinks.  Our First Amendment right of Free speech protects each and every one us from criminal prosecution for sharing our beliefs, and while that holds true to this day, corporate America and society at large is turning a corner at which we reject and ridicule anyone with an opinion that is in the minority.

The last thing we need is to be told how to think.  Watching a television show or sporting event while being on Twitter can and does shape the opinion of how you feel about that particular show or game.  15 years ago, you would watch and episode of ER, absorb it, form your opinion and then talk about it the next day at work/school.  Now, you can be 20 minutes in to MadMen and the first segment of the show has been dissected on Twitter to the nth degree, and its almost telling you how YOU should feel about the show, thus robbing you of your own thoughts and just following the masses.

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If you took a poll in this country 50 years ago asking if people would be in favor of same sex marriage, I can’t imagine that 5% of our country would have been in favor of it.  It was looked at as something strange and foreign to the vast majority of the country.  However, the people who were and continue to be in favor have not backed down and have spoken their mind and that minority gradually began to pick up steam. As of now, gay marriage is legal in over 17 states, and that will most likely more than double in the next 10 years.  People fought for their beliefs and now they are getting what they deserve.  With immediate reactions across social media regarding every angle, we should sincerely hope that doesn’t spurn new ideas and individualistic thinking.

Regardless of someone’s opinion, I hope our society can begin to right the ship a bit and allow ourselves to debate hot-button issues, while also respecting others’ feelings on those particular issues.  We are all different people and being different is what makes the United States the best country in the world.  Social media, and the ability to have user generated content easily put online has changed us for the better in many ways.  However, we can’t let political correctness and the instant response of social media overtake one’s ability to voice their opinions outside of the herd.