In an age where we have instant access to more information than it's possible to consume in a lifetime, it's very difficult to remain unaware of the world around you. Breaking news is just that; we hear about events as they are happening thanks to the power of social media. As a result of this, we are a very politically aware generation and whatever side of the political spectrum you fall on, it's easy to share your opinion with a huge audience by using the internet.
Does this make us obligated to use our platform to speak up for what we believe in?
A particular political event that stands out in my mind is the recent US election. When it was announced that Donald Trump had indeed won, my Twitter timeline erupted. Whatever the result of the election, I had anticipated that my social feeds were going to be particularly noisy. What I hadn't expected however, was the sheer volume of Tweets condemning not Donald Trump and his supporters, but instead, Tweets calling out other bloggers for not saying anything.
Such Tweets left me torn. On the one hand, I truly believe you should speak up for what you believe in and that when you don't speak up, you're complicit in anything that happens afterwards. On the other, not only can I see exactly why people might stay quiet about certain things on social media, I can empathise with it.
My own social media feeds for example are carefully monitored. Working in digital marketing and social media means I fully expect my employer and any potential future employers to be checking up on my online life. Besides limiting swearing and particularly negative language, I also make the effort to not post any of my more extreme views because I don't know who is reading and how that will impact my future.
I also like to look back on my social media; I'm a regular user of the Timehop app. My morning can get off to a great start when I scroll through Timehop and I'm reminded of tiny little things that happened in the past and made me happy. On the other hand, my morning can be blighted by reading social media posts about not so great times in the past, including times where current events have led me to take to social media in my anger. If I'm going to use my blog and social media as a diary of sorts, I'd much rather it be a place full off happiness and fond memories rather than anger and sadness.
Perhaps most importantly, there is mental health to consider. I remember one particular occasion very well where I'd used Twitter to say how awful it is that black children are shot by police who face no consequences for their actions. In response to this, I was told to kill myself. I see this kind of behaviour all too frequently; fantastic people speak up and the torrents of abuse they receive in return can be horrible. I for one do not have the mental strength to deal with comments like those telling me I should die on a daily basis and unfortunately, this is a common side affect of standing up for yourself and what you believe in.
Unfortunately, unless people are willing to take a stand and be vocal about their beliefs, things will never change. I won't dictate what you can and can't do with your blog or other social media platforms, but sometimes, silence can be deafening and people will always remember who spoke up and who didn't. It's up to you to choose what you want to be remembered for. With an unexpected General Election being announced just days ago, I know I'm not the only one who is considering how I can use my platform to educate others and secure a better future for the country I live in.
Earlier this year I decided I wanted to be more vocal about my political leanings and moral beliefs, but it can be hard to balance doing what's right with the negative side effects like becoming a target for trolls. I personally believe everyone has the right to do things they enjoy, including blogging and using social media, without being attacked for it. My gut tells me that the only obligation people have when it comes to using their platforms is to treat others with kindness and respect.
But what do you think, are people obligated to use their platforms to speak out?