Sunday, December 2, 2012
Freedom of choice -- to igonre
Controversies over tweets and Facebook posts are nothing new. It’s been there for over a decade, ever since the advent of web 2.0 that gave us tools to publish, broadcast and telecast whatever we wanted to tell the world. Earlier, controversies were around blog posts. There have been numerous cases of netizens losing jobs, being served legal notice for defamation, threatened, forced to take down posts etc.
Information -- an objective statement of fact or a biased personal view -- exists either in the private or public domain. When only known number of people are aware of what is said or discussed, then that is in the private domain. For example, letters, phone calls, emails, SMSs etc between two people or amongst a group of people. But, when communication happens amongst countless number of people, it is in the public domain. And that's where all the problems lie.
Earlier, defamation and libel cases were only related to what was published in books, magazines or newspapers or what was broadcast on radio or telecast on television. Most of the communication then was in the private domain. But today, arguably, we spend a lot of time talking to the world at large -- uploading status messages and comments, besides pictures and videos. Perhaps what is forgotten in the process is, there is a huge number of people -- most of them strangers, unlike in the private domain -- reading and listening to what is being said.
There is an old adage: "My freedom ends where your freedom begins". This makes eminent sense when two people communicate with each other, or in such private-domain interactions, where "I" and "you" are known entities. But does this adage hold good in today's changed communication paradigm?
Facebook has come to symbolize the new communication structure -- a lot of supposedly private and personal information and views are broadcast, knowingly or unknowingly, to the whole world in the public domain. The virtually unbridled freedom of expression that everyone has to express their views has forced us to adopt a new way to tackle the torrent of comments.
Facebook is also about a new freedom of choice -- where you choose to ignore. When friend requests from people you aren't quite bothered about come, ignore. If for some reason, you are compelled to add them, then make list of people you want to follow, and ignore the rest. There is the 'hide' option, where you can choose not to see the types of posts you don't like. You can customize the news feed option: choose to ignore what you don't like.
Where is the compulsion to read and react to everything in the public domain? Ignore. Just as I may not make favourable comments always, why should I make unfavourable comments whenever I see something I don't like? Ignore.
Inundated with so much information in the public domain, the freedom of choice that I seem to exercise nowadays is to ignore. There may be limits to freedom to my expression; but thankfully, no one has curtailed my freedom to ignore. That's an absolute freedom I enjoy.
(Crossposted from Kaleidoscope)