You may have heard that Harvard University has taken the unprecedented and controversial step of rescinding its acceptance letters to (at least) ten students after reading their offensive comments and memes on Facebook. If you haven’t heard about this, Google it. In the meantime, let’s address this.
This decision should neither be ignored nor taken lightly. Its impact should resonate with all of us (almost) as much as it will for those students, for a very long time. Recognizing and appreciating how adversely not our presence, but how we choose to show up on social media should be at the forefront every single time we caress a key. Understanding that what we may consider to be our right to self-express (true) can trigger someone or some entity’s right to their subsequent expression, is paramount. Without one doubt those students, their loved ones and supporters will cite “freedom of speech”. They will be correct. But what we tend to ignore in that equation is that everyone has the right to freedoms… including Harvard.
I have a niece that I adore and am immensely proud of! But every so often I am compelled to pick up my phone, call her and tell her (not ask her) to remove a post; either verbal or pictorial in nature. To her credit, she listens. I remember having shared this with a few of my friends who subsequently questioned my right to tell an adult (yes… she is way over twenty-one) what to do. Not that I do not care about their opinion. But I do not care about their opinion in this! My reason for watching her, for protecting her is that I understand a few things:
- Someone is always watching/reading
- She is not yet so established in her life or career that she can afford to move through it telling others to kiss her ass
- As a (young) lady, one should always present as a lady
- And… someone is always watching/reading!
At times in my capacity of staffing, I may log onto a candidate’s FB page to better glean what I may be signing up for if I were to hire them. To me that is not invasive or intrusive, but prudent. If I see something that makes me tilt my head too far to the left, raise either or both eyebrows, I move on to the next candidate; no sense in knowingly inviting trouble to my house. Sometimes, it is not even what one posts, but how much one posts that will give pause. A serial poster may/can/will tend to be quite unproductive.
Listen, we invite people into our lives when we engage in an online social presence. Once we have signed on for that we can no longer, with any validity or position of strength, hide behind either anonymity or the right to privacy. Understand that when we open the barn door, not only do we run the risk of the horses getting out, but we are allowing entry for the flies. If we would like our horses protected, keep their stalls sanitized, the hay fresh and clean, throw a blanket over them, lock the gates to their stalls and secure the barn door after leaving. Don’t leave a trail of muck and manure, then complain that the flies followed.
We’re back to a conversation I had previously about accepting responsibility for one’s actions. Some of us tend to behave as if we are the only ones entitled to the right to express ourselves; getting offended when others react to our expressions. Most go so far as to only tolerate expression in their favor. Thankfully the world is more evolved than that! Yes, we all have the right and freedom to do as we please, physically and verbally. But your right to express does not negate mine.
Those (almost) Harvard students shouldn’t be too upset. After all, they can truthfully say they were Harvard-educated!