Friday, June 26, 2020

What is Free Speech? Ask the Manners Doctor

Dear Manners Doctor,

What should I do about people who always make negative comments on my Facebook page? I like to keep my page light and fun. But no matter what I post, there is one guy who has to say “You're so gullible. This was photoshopped.”  (Even if I already said it was photoshopped in my intro.) Or “No cat could actually do that.” Or "Why do you think cats can't spell? Do you know any cats who can write?"

He’s especially harsh when I post fun articles about science and space exploration.

What he says is usually obvious, but it’s negative and unpleasant.

He doesn’t get that the point of these posts and memes is humor and food for the imagination, not realism.

I’ve had a number of people complain about this guy. I’ve asked him to lighten up, but he just blabbers about “free speech.” Am I violating his rights? What’s the polite way to deal with him?

Keeping it Light

Dear Keeping it Light,

The Manners Doctor would like to remind people that “free speech” refers to speech in a public place. The First Amendment to the US Constitution gives us the right to express our views in a public place and not go to jail for them.

It does not, however give people the right to say whatever they want in a private space. It also doesn’t say there will be no consequences to “free” speech.  

If you walk into your Mother-in-Law’s house and call her a fat pig, she has every right to tell you to get out and never darken her door again. And you may find that your spouse doesn’t want much to do with you either.

The government can’t send you to jail for calling your Mother-in-Law a fat pig, but you will suffer some
Not your Mother-in-Law
painful consequences.

As to your Captain Obvious/ Debby Downer Facebook visitor, you should have unfriended and blocked him some time ago. He has no "rights" to troll your page. If a visitor is annoying your friends and diminishing your brand, then it’s your job to remove him. Facebook is a private company and your page is yours. Nobody has the right to change the tone of your page but you. And of course, Mr. Zuckerberg.

The polite way to deal with trollish behavior is block and unfriend. Don’t threaten or interact with him in any way. Interacting with a troll always leads to dark places.

Very Truly Yours,

The Manners Doctor



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  1. Replies
    1. Marlene--Thanks for stopping by. The Manners Doctor's advice is so sensible, isn't it?

  2. I agree 100%! (Thank you for giving me permission.)

  3. Donna--Great to see you here! Yes, it took me way too long to remember that nobody has the right to annoy my readers or troll my page of social media. All social media is privately owned.

  4. If there are obvious flaws in his "reasoning" you can credit your readers will the intelligance to figure that out for themselves (after all, they're reading your posts, aren't they?) Don't call him out, wipe him out.