Note: The following post is written by Brian Feinblum, Chief Marketing Officer, Planned Television Arts.
At times one has to marvel at how the Internet has revolutionized free speech practices. At other times we need to stand back and give more thought on how we should proceed with this weapon of mass information.
For instance, the New York Public Library now allows adults to view online pornography in the open. The pro-free-speech side of me says that libraries should allow such access, though I would think they could invest in other materials that would serve more people in a better way. The dad side of me questions, at the very least, why the library doesn’t provide private viewing booths of material many find objectionable. The key here is minors should not have access to this stuff and as a result of the library’s current policies and procedures, minors are able to access the porn directly or indirectly.
Of course the same Internet provides current information in an instantaneous, mobile, inexpensive way that we all love and applaud. It is also becoming a place not just of commerce, socialization, and information, but of history. It is an ever-expanding record of everything. If you post something online, it seems to say alive in cyberspace forever.
There are plenty of sites promoting a good cause, and plenty others seeking to scam people. Identity theft has become a real issue only with the advent of the Internet. People use the Internet for bullying, spying, or complaining, but they also use it to help elect people to office, share important tips on health, finance, safety and other useful topics. For better or for worse, the Internet is a huge part of our culture and the rules or norms are still being written as to the proper way to use it, and to interact in our expanding online community.
The New York Post, admittedly one of the most entertaining publications in the history of publishing, reported on an interesting situation in which a deliveryman got his therapeutic revenge on bad tippers by outing them on his website, www.15percent.tumblr.com.
Tired of all the cheapskates who gave him $50 on a $48 order and told to keep the change as if he’d won the lottery, Larry Fox, 20, took to the public shame route. However, Tumblr, the host site, said he had to remove some of the detailed personal information that he’d posted. He continued, albeit without address information and other sensitive data, to expose the thrifty. But eventually the customers who stiffed him complained to the delivery service Larry worked for.
Apparently the customers wrote on another website, www.delivery.com – a site through which customers place orders – they would sue his employer if he continued to post his tip rants.
Larry was fired.
You can look at this and say he has a right to post, others have a right to complain, and his employer has a right to fire him. On the other hand, you can also say he shouldn’t be posting while still working there, the customers have no right to silence his free speech, and his employer should separate words from actions and ignore the spirited posts. Or, you can see other combinations of who is right and wrong here.
But the law or ethics aside, this situation calls into question the role of responsibility we all have in how and what we communicate. There are consequences to what we post and share. We do influence the real world even when we just type out a few words of passing anger.
The next time you want to post something, perhaps to promote your book, think about who may be impacted by your words. Freedom of speech comes with a price tag, but I hope the cost is not censorship nor do I want it to be an unfettered license to say anything, anywhere, anytime. We need to each take responsibility in what we say and how we choose to share information, ideas, and viewpoints.
Even if we conclude that freedom of speech is meant to wipe away all filters and constraints, it doesn’t mean that as individuals we should abdicate our responsibility and duty to reflect on the potential impact our words can have as actions.
So, if you feel called upon to write about your boss, co-workers, clients, business partners, family members, neighbors, or girlfriends, just ask yourself: How will they likely react? Determine if you’re really ready to absorb their feedback and potential fallout.
We are inspired to write about what we know – it makes for great writing. But beware when you write about who you know. They may just be reading your blog.
– Brian Feinblum, the chief marketing officer for Planned Television Arts, has been promoting and marketing authors since 1989. Pick up the phone and call: 212-583-2718. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: http://www.plannedtvarts.com. Brian’s new blog can be found at http://bookmarketingbuzzblog.blogspot.com.