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Is Everyone Entitled to A Platform?

“Not everyone should start a blog!”

A client threw this slinger at my friend.

“I wasn’t suggesting everyone start a blog,” she told me over dinner recounting the story. “I was suggesting she start a blog since she wanted to be a writer and the traditional approach wasn’t working for her.”

My friend was horrified at how her advice was misconstrued. She had been trying to help empower creative women, not subject them to one specific path.

I was shocked at how much I agreed with this woman. Not everyone should start a blog and maybe she shouldn’t start one either. There were enough loudmouthed idiots with a platform (Exhibit A…).

“Everyone is entitled to an opinion. If you believe something, you can and should stand for something.”

“Fine, but not everyone with an opinion is entitled to a platform,” I said.

We proceeded to fight about this for several months.

In my mind, empowering people to broadcast their beliefs on the internet is like saying, “The Kardashians get a TV show, so I get one too!”

Cite the first amendment and you can defend anyone’s right to display themselves as a moron. But thinking as a reasonable adult, should we be encouraging them to do so?

Before the internet, scam artists (or arguably worse: the well-intentioned-but-not-very-smart people) were limited by their channel access. Today, however, every JoeShmo with an opinion can now broadcast their (unfettered) views to millions of people across the globe in a matter of minutes.

Try as we might, we cannot claim ignorance about how influence and the internet work.

That JoeShmo broadcasting his views now has power. He has followers, a platform, a voice on the world’s stage.

Content is not benign. It has the power to launch movements, change minds, inspire behavior, and empty pockets.

The internet has democratized access to information and the spread of it. And that’s a wonderful thing.

What’s not wonderful is that we don’t yet know how to harness this incredible power. And idiots are taking the podium and saying, “Oh hey there! I have a bridge in China I’d like to sell you. And, it cures cancer. Just enter your email address HERE.”

Except, it doesn’t sound like that. It sounds like, well, this. What you’re reading right now.

Which is frightening.

It’s getting increasingly difficult to tell the difference between charlatans with copy skills and genuine businesses or thought leaders with good ideas worth your time.

That is the danger in encouraging everyone and their mom to creatively express themselves on the internet. For as long as we have platforms, we will have idiots who employ them and abuse their power.

Because “people with a platform,” today, is all of us.

Your mom with her Facebook account, your cousin forwarding comic-sans conspiracy theory emails to everyone, your boring company blog.

We’re all influencers with a platform.

(Yes, even if you don’t have “that many” followers. Need I remind you if 400 people showed up in a room, physically, to hear you speak, you’d feel like that was a lot of people.).

The internet is the Wild West of our generation. It’s unregulated and ripe with morons. And this is America: I will die for your right to say dumb s@%#.

But I will also reserve the right to social shame you and hold you accountable.

It’s going to be a while until we reach consensus on how this all works. The only way to encourage intellectual honesty from people with a platform is to demand it.

And that’s where you come in.

Dissension leads to progress.

Journalists used to do this, but now we’re all media companies. Which means we have a collective social responsibility to give AF about what’s on the internet.

It is our responsibility to hold each other accountable. If someone is going out in public to declare a view (even if it’s about Avocado Toast), you have every right (and responsibility) to scrutinize and push back.

Like this guy did, literallyabout Avocado Toast. Bravo brave social pioneer.

The Covfefe Act is a good first step. Not just for politics, but for all of us.

What you put out on the internet doesn’t go away. And though we can’t (and shouldn’t) take away your first amendment right to say dumb #$%^, we can certainly work together to self-correct.

Or at the very least, remind people, that blog post/Facebook rant/Bridge in China you’re selling/other-stupid-thing-you-can’t-take-back….you’re (probably) not going to want that on the internet…