This is an entry for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Free to Tweet scholarship competition.
I blend in – until I blog. I have never fomented a revolution; I have never planned to overthrow the government. Offline, having freedom of speech does not change me. But on the Internet, I am a blogger, and blogging has given me a new perspective on free speech.
On my blog, I express myself. I discuss politics, art, my daily life. I develop an identity. Within my online community, I make friends, share ideas, and create a culture. On my blog, I speak as I wish, more candidly than I can anywhere else. I express my own opinions – and therein lies the problem. As James Madison once said, “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire,” and the freedom of the Internet means that the divergent opinions within my blogging community never go unchallenged.
The Founders assumed freedom of speech would free us from the burdens of censorship and silence. However, in a sense, free speech is negatively self-contradictory. Without freedom of speech, no consequences exist for thinking differently – but there is no freedom. Yet with freedom of speech, not unequivocally supporting the status quo requires putting in more effort to gain recognition for opinions. That is equally the nature of blogging.
Having freedom of speech is not just a given right; it is a formative experience. Those with unpopular opinions must learn to debate, to research, to argue, to be diplomatic. I am no stranger to this; I am vocal about my opinions. When someone has disagreed with my view on a political or social issue, I’ve had to do research to prove that my point was valid. In doing so, I have become more media literate; I have learned to synthesize facts and opinions. That my views are debated upon and not silenced shows that America is truly free.
Defending one’s opinion against opposition can become rather burdensome, but for me, doing so has made me more educated and more politically involved. Having the freedom to speak without censorship has made me a better person and a better American citizen.
Carolyn is a senior in HSU at duPont Manual High School and a staff writer for ManualRedEye.