I had a discussion this week with reporter Sarah Simpson because I wanted her opinion about whether my impression was right that more and more people are becoming unwilling to stand behind their words and actions, even when they’ve taken place in a public forum.
I wrote just recently about why we don’t, as a general policy, use anonymous sources. At least, not unless there is a really pressing reason, and by pressing I mean they would be in physical danger, or would lose their job. Even in that last case I’d have to weigh the necessity of including them at all.
Sarah and I agreed I wasn’t crazy, more and more people seem to want even their most innocuous statements to be somehow privileged. Even if they’re requesting actions to be taken that will affect the general public.
When I talked to Sarah about it, her opinion was that it’s mostly about social media. A phone call I got that same day seemed to confirm Sarah’s gut feeling. Someone who didn’t want their name in the paper specifically identified not wanting social media backlash as one of the primary reasons.
Strangely, there’s also often a fear that a nebulous someone who disagrees with them will spend the time to somehow track them down and harm them in some fashion. I’m not kidding. I’ve talked to a lot of people in the last few years that seem genuinely worried about this — even when they’re stating widely held views on totally uncontroversial topics.
Have we really become so fearful of one another? And is that fear really justified?
It seems like we’ve all succumbed to some irrational stranger danger paranoia.
I can tell you, as someone who’s stated many an unpopular opinion, in print for all to see, that by far most people can’t be bothered. Period. Very rarely there will be someone who will at most call and yell at you (well, me, because they can find me easily enough at the Citizen office). It’s more common to find nasty or disparaging comments online, but you can turn that off easily enough.
Don’t you want to stand up and be counted, rather than live in a world so filled with fear that someone might disagree with you that you edit yourself from existence? Has social media become such a straitjacket insisting on conformity that you are afraid to talk to people about the things that truly matter and affect our lives in the real world?
I hope to see the pendulum begin to swing the other direction, and soon. I worry for us all if it doesn’t.