I have been thinking about this for a while but I’m not really sure how to articulate it properly. I probably still can’t but I’m going to give it a try.
The recent issue regarding Joshua Molo’s alleged forced public apology, which stemmed from an online discussion with his former teachers, brought about debates surrounding free speech and how cyber libel law should be wielded. But for me, it took to spotlight an issue that has also been a stark recurring theme throughout the political discourse during the current crisis we are going through. This is how teachers and students (current or previous) navigate their online relationships and connections across digital and social media spaces. It has been more problematic than most of us would care to admit.
Yes, this also applies to adults in general because older people are instinctively figures of authority we turn and look up to. But for teachers and students, we can actually establish ethical guidelines through reinforceable policies. We need not only be governed by our own individual interpretations of virtue and moral compass.
Impressionable young kids are on social media. Surely, adults can appreciate that posting something online and putting things out there are now available to a wider audience, that sometimes we can’t even control. They are not only available to your age group or your friends anymore. Students, nieces, nephews, children of friends… everyone else you’ve added or added you on those social media bubbles can stumble upon it. We have to accept that children are going to be online whether we like it or not – whether it’s appropriate or otherwise. This is the reality brought about by the age of new media that we cannot do much about. But how we behave within these modern mediums of communication, that’s something we can shape with careful thought, intellect, responsibility, benevolence and restraint.
Arguably, these online connections could be mostly harmless, but who’s to say they can’t be harmful. A lot of what I’ve personally come across with are those opinions about how people should just shut up or how voicing out certain perspectives or facts is considered to be a know-it-all attitude. I personally find this disappointing, especially coming from people my younger self used to admire – a sentiment that I’m sure is shared by many. I can go on and on about my feelings and thoughts about this but let me end with some questions to ponder on instead…
Do we really want a generation who has learned to live in shame for what they think? Do we really want to curtail our abilities to conduct useful debate because of pride, fallacies, and devotions? For a large portion of the population to grow up desensitised or scared about voicing their opinion screams Orwellian to me; why does that not scare you?