Russ Kent: Can we have too much freedom?


Is there such a thing as too much freedom?

In a roundabout way, a question I posted Monday on Facebook led to this query.

Nothing is celebrated or cherished more than the freedom of expression.

But social media has given every person in the world a voice, a chance to post or expound on any thought that runs through their head.

I’m not certain that’s a good thing.

Anyway, I made a simple post stating that I could not come up with an idea for a column.

Several friends pitched possible topics. Some I’ll use in the future. One I especially liked. I’m working on that one already.

Those suggestions caused me to ponder the power of social media.

It can do a ton of good.

It can be the conduit to a whole lot of evil.

Social media is the most influential “invention” of the 21st Century.

If you are younger than 40, social media is likely a huge part of your world. If you are older than 40, the impact social media has on your life is probably lessened. And the older you are, the less you use it.

But that’s not a black and white statement, either. I’m 57. And I am on social media daily. Part of it is for work. Part of it is for pleasure.

There is no faster way to spread a message, good or bad.

If you need help, post something on Facebook.

If people believe you’re honest in your intent and your request, they’ll help.

If they think you are trying to scam them, you’re request will be ignored, or worse, you’ll be hammered and chastised and humiliated for your efforts.

It’s easy to fool one person, or two. But it’s a lot more difficult to fool the hundreds, thousands or millions who may read a Facebook post.

I’ve made new friends through social media. I’ve reconnected with old friends through social media. I’ve been able to maintain friendships via social media.

I’m an introvert. Without social media, my life would be a lot less fulfilling.

I am married … and divorced. I met my wife through social media. That relationship didn’t end as I had hoped, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Without social media I may not have experienced the joy of being married, at all.

I’ve kept in contact with members of her family who I love. I’ve seen my nieces and nephews through that marriage grow up. That would not have happened without social media.

Social media is the reason Barack Obama became president. He was the first president to figure out the power and reach and potential of social media. His campaign coordinators used social media, combined with the mainstream media, to outshout every other candidate. No one else had a chance.

Donald Trump did one better than that. Trump’s campaign organizers were so proficient at using social media they had no need for the mainstream media. Trump only used the “regular media” when it suited him. And that was not very often. Trump proved if you do it right, you don’t need the backing of the regular, mainstream media. It may, in fact, be the future in national politics.

In a backward sort of way, social media may be the thing that forces the national media to quit being so blatant with its biases and its tendency to base everything it does on those biases.

As much as I enjoy social media — for me it is Facebook and Instagram and to a lesser extent Twitter and Snapchat — I am not naive enough to know social media has had a truly negative impact on the world.

Terrorist organizations make great use of social media. They can recruit around the world, in every corner of every nation, in every village, city and town in every state in this nation. And basically, it doesn’t cost them a dime. That’s frightening.

Most cyber attacks are carried out through social media.

In World War II, the Nazis became ultra proficient at the use of propaganda. It’s frightening to think what the world would be like if social media had been available to the Nazis.

As is the case of everything in this world, social media is what you make of it.

Use it for good, or for bad.

You can make mankind a kinder place, or you can make it the world truly evil.

I use it for positive things.

My favorite answer to my query on column ideas came from a friend in Louisville, Kentucky. Amy and I met via a chat program at work. We became acquaintances by typing message back and forth. We became better friends via Facebook and even though we’ve not met in person, I cherish her friendship, her counsel, her advice and her wicked sense of humor. I know her husband and have watched her son grow up via Facebook.

That’s what’s great about social media.

The bad stuff?

It’s out there. I choose to ignore it.

What you do with it is up to you.

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Russ Kent is editor of the Galion Inquirer. Email him with comments or story ideas at rkent@civitasmedia.com.