How the social media mob helped me find my voice
A new book explains "How to Find and Free Your Voice in the Age of Outrage"
Back in 2021, I had my own experience with the online mob. For over five years, I had maintained a private Facebook group with over 30,000 members, aiming to provide employment opportunities in the media, as well as resources and mentorship, for women and gender non-conforming individuals.
Things ran smoothly, until someone posted a job opportunity at Fox News, angering many group members who chose to respond with vitriol and personal attacks towards the person who shared this opportunity. I intervened, urging members to avoid politics and ad hominem, and instead focus on helping each other and sharing work related opportunities. So, instead, the mob turned to me. They labeled me a "white supremacist" and insisted that, since I posted a job opening at Fox News, I would be just as willing to let the KKK recruit through my group. They declared that it was an impossible goal to keep the group apolitical because a group for women is inherently political. When I suggested that I’d gladly open it up to everyone…things escalated. Not only was I harassed, threatened, and doxxed—I was told that my career was over and the mob attempted to reach out to my editors to ensure that this was indeed the case.
When I recounted what happened to me in a piece for Newsweek, I was expecting the worst. I thought that the mob would be reinvigorated by the new opportunity to target me and run for their tiki torches—like the ones pictured in the messages they’d send my way with promises of destroying my career.
But, it didn’t quite go that way. You see, once you reveal a bully for what they are, they lose their power. They shrink into oblivion. Besides, their attention spans are short—they’ve already moved along to call out the next urgent case of speech violence.
However, the experience prompted a shift within me. Nearly three years later, inspired by a line from the original piece—"When reasonable people stay silent, the voices of the unreasonable are allowed infinite room to fill the void"—I am on the brink of releasing my first book, "No Apologies: How to Find and Free Your Voice in the Age of Outrage―Lessons for the Silenced."
What happened to me wasn’t unique. In fact, it paled in comparison to the many dramatic tales that have been shared with me since. Some have made it to the public stage, and some never will. But the casualties of intolerance and cancel culture are numerous, leading to job losses, ruined careers, severed friendships, shattered communities, and, most tragically, loss of life—as result of bullying.
In the process of telling my story, I have found my own voice. What started as a reluctant whisper grew into a defiant roar. I own my voice. I own my thoughts. And I get to decide what I do or do not say.
Being open about my own views has had a number of rewards: I’m more true to myself, and it has fostered deeper, more honest friendships. After all, how can you really know someone who cannot say what they mean? In a sense, voicing my beliefs openly has given permission to others within my circle to do the same without fear of judgement. Even if we disagree, we assume the best in each other. Speaking my thoughts out loud also allowed me to better understand and refine my own convictions because I had the opportunity to discuss them and have my views challenged or enhanced. In particular, I made a point to seek out people with different perspectives to talk through our disagreements in good faith.
But even as I’ve encountered many kindred spirits throughout this new journey of mine, I've observed a concerning trend among some who, in their opposition to the suppression of free expression, have adopted tactics they initially opposed, including bullying, righteousness, and aggressive tactics. I’ve also noticed how some of the people who initially championed freedom of speech have gradually shifted their positions, revealing a universal temptation to silence others when afforded a position of power. I’ve come to realize that what they were really fighting against was the tools of censorship and suppression being used against them, not against their use in general.
The temptation to silence others exists across the political and ideological spectrum—it's a manifestation of human nature. It rears its ugly head whenever one is given the power to censor or to silence, and whoever has this power will typically find a way to justify using it. The test lies in our commitment to principles, even when it’s in our best interest to ignore them.
Equally crucial is to use one's voice for matters of importance. When we abdicate our voice to a vocal minority, they are the ones who get to shape our world. Throughout history, the revolutionaries have always been a vocal minority who claim to speak for the masses. But although the masses may not be part of this group, they—like everyone else—are affected by the actions of the revolutionary minority nonetheless.
We are all attempting to navigate the challenges of our increasingly complex digital age in our own way. Too often, however, our ability to speak openly has been hindered by fear. My own journey, as well as the opportunity to speak with many others about theirs, has underscored for me how much our society depends on our willingness to engage in open and respectful dialogue. This is particularly true when it comes to fields like science, academia, and the arts, which depend on our ability to express ourselves in order to guide us towards truth.
When we dare to voice our diverse thoughts, we lay the foundation for a culture rich in perspective, one where innovation flourishes, and empathy is fostered through understanding differing viewpoints. By cultivating spaces where ideas can be exchanged freely, we champion a society that values critical thinking, personal growth, and collective wisdom. Such a culture cannot be derailed by the extremes, as it is anchored in the steadfast commitment of its people to uphold the principle of free speech—not as a weapon, but as a tool for enlightenment and progress that transcends our differences, and instead builds on them. The ability to speak one's mind freely—coupled with the responsibility to listen and engage in good faith—is not just a right, it’s essential for our survival. We cannot afford to let it slip away.
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