Freedom of Speech & Hate in Times of Social Media

Freedom of Speech & Hate in Times of Social Media

There’s something on my mind… Something that I have been meaning to share with you for a while now, but I've been scared to do so. Don't take me wrong - I've always been quite personal in my blogs, but for some reason this topic feels different. It’s something close to my heart, so I wanted to make sure that my message would be clear & understood by everyone.

And then I realized that it was simply impossible to do so - whatever I would write or say, there will always be someone who will not agree with me. And that in itself was the crux of what I wanted to tell you.

We live in a day and age where perfection is preached yet inherently unattainable, but being truthful & imperfect is judged and shunned - especially on social media. Where openly making mistakes is just another reason for being called hypocrite, and saying “no offense, but *insert something offensive*” is considered a form of constructive criticism. We claim to be a generation who is openminded and free-spirited, yet if I stray away from your idealistic perception of me, compassion and empathy is no where to be found.

Freedom of Speech & Hate in Times of Social Media

Freedom of Speech & Hate in Times of Social Media

I have been publicly on social media since I hit my twenties. When I started with my blog featuring iPhone 6 mirror selfies in my tiny studio in Groningen, I never thought that one day this would grow out to be my fulltime career. I also had no idea about how scrutinized my personal life would be, or how much hatred I would receive for certain life's choices.

“She is so disappointing because she went to law school, but didn’t become a lawyer.” “She says she went to law school, but she only did a LLM and not a JD - she’s a liar.” “She thinks she’s pretty but she’s just short and too fat.” “She is too smart for being just a YouTuber and she is ruined her career.” “Now that she lives in LA she is just a basic influencer with no personality.”

I find it hard to admit that these words hurt me. I like to see myself as a strong person, who overcame enough of sh*t to be able to deal with some negative comments. Most of the times I don’t respond and simply ignore these messages. I don't let it get to me. That’s what I did my whole life; I’ve been bullied a lot and I would never stand up and defend myself, as I knew people would find it entertaining if I engaged in the drama. But some days, these messages would hurt like hell. Some days, they would feel like validation of my own worst insecurities and doubts. Some days, they made me feel so low and sad, I found it hard to find the motivation to do the simplest things such as get out of bed or make myself food. Even though they were just mere words, the right (or should I say wrong) words can be extremely powerful. You should never underestimate the power of what your message conveys.

Freedom of Speech & Hate in Times of Social Media

Side note: These kind of messages fueled my passion for studying law, and choosing freedom of speech as my main research topic. I've always been a strong believer in the EU legal system for freedom of speech, where protecting minorities was valued over absolute freedom of speech. I believe that some things are better left unsaid, and have no value to add to our society, such as hate speech. However, I was curious to see how different legal systems approached this issue, so I moved abroad, to study the US consitutional system (first amendment) of protected and unprotected speech. I was shocked to see how hate speech was protected (protected here means not limited by the US consitution, and therefore legal) under the US law. Some of the cases I had to study (such as the Skokie case) just blew my mind with how extremely hurtful and unnecessary they were. The philosophical fundament of the US first amendment, the idea of "a marketplace of ideas", where good speech will always filter out the bad speech, seemed very naive to me. It's based on the idea of there being "a bigger amount of" or "more powerful" good speech than bad speech, so that the bad speech would be filtered out eventually by the good. However, with the combination of allowing (almost) everything to be said, together with the ease, low-effort, and popular form of entertainment of writing hateful things online nowadays, good speech will have to work twice as hard to filter out all the cr*p written online. The marketplace of ideas never anticipated the extreme amounts of information and opinions our society would have to deal with in current times. With writing a hateful comment only taking a few seconds, and being done pretty much anonymously, it's a highly effective way to impactfully hurt the person in question, with no personal consequences. And I had enough of it; So I guess this is my attempt of trying to filter out the bad speech, with the good speech. I want to speak out.

The simplest truth in life is that I am not you. You and I are two self-consciousnesses separate from one another. I am following my path of life, and so are you. I will not judge you, and I ask that the next time you want to judge someone else, you don't do it publicly. Just take a breath. You will think of the power and impact your words have, because trust me, they do. There are some words I will never forget, like dms I’ve received saying I inspired you to go to law school or college, or the time someone wrote that her boyfriend thought I should kill myself, because the world would be better off without me (after that I stopped reading forums in general). Instead of reflecting your opinions on me, take a moment to self-reflect on yourself. Because I truly believe that if we spend more time on self-reflection, and less time on judging others, you will become a better person, and create a better world too.

HAVE YOU EVER DEALT WITH HATE ONLINE (OR OFFLINE)?

xo Lilia

P.S. Hope you enjoyed these pictures of happy me at LACMA, LA :)

15 Comments

  1. Sabrina Nunez
    February 29, 2020 / 17:03

    Hi Lilia!
    Great post, i’ve been following you from the beginning, your story is inspirational. I know people say horrible things online, and nobody should go through that. Unfortunately, that’s what comes with influencer fame, great opportunities, and incredible privilege that i could only dream of – such as being able to afford an apartment on your own at such a young age in the most expensive state in the country. It’s such a blessing and you deserve it, you work hard.
    As for hate speech, if we ban people who say “i hate hispanic people” from sharing their opinions, eventually more things will get banned. For example, if people find offense to the statement “i voted for Donald Trump and like him” then those people will be silenced for their opinion cause that statement can easily be considered hate speech in today’s day.
    That’s why freedom of speech is so important, everyone should be able to share their opinions. It sucks when it’s hurtful, but we need to protect ALL opinions not just positive ones. Anyways this is just my opinion. Loved your post and will always respect your opinion :)

    Love,
    Sabrina

    • Lilia
      Author
      February 29, 2020 / 17:46

      Hi Sabrina!
      Thanks for taking the time to write a response to my blog. I am very aware of the many priviliges I have had in my life, and I’m extremely grateful for them. I’ve also worked very hard for the things I’ve achieved, and I never took them for granted. However, like you said, that does not justify the hatred social influencer receive online.

      When it comes to your “slippery slope” argument, I have to disagree. The slippery slope argument can be made in any legal issue, because all of them require some sort of harsh line to be drawn, while life in many cases is way more complicated than that. The fact that there are some difficult cases of determining what is mere critical opinion or hate speech, does not justify to not criminalize hate speech at all. You have a very American approach to freedom of speech, which is not wrong, but I personally don’t find myself in at all. There are controversial cases where it’s hard to draw a line, but there are also cases where I think minorities need to be protected. I also agree that freedom of speech is so important, and everyone should be able to share their opinions, when they actually are a form of valuable speech – speech without value and solely directed to hurt others should not be considered freedom of speech. That’s why I value the EU system so much, since I think their philosophical fundament of protecting minorities, while still maintaining democracy and no censorship, works better :)

  2. Anne
    February 29, 2020 / 17:08

    Is that the reason you are not sharing the same content as before ? Since the beginning of the year it’s more or less only skincare/makeup routines and hauls ?
    Hopefully you will soon come back with fresh ideas :)

    • Lilia
      Author
      February 29, 2020 / 17:17

      Hmm don’t really know what you mean, since I would say my content is way more personal than before. I haven’t done a makeup routine since 2/3 years.

  3. Mayara
    February 29, 2020 / 20:06

    Hey.

    I usually don’t comment on videos or blog posts but I feel like I have to say this.
    As a young girl who moved abroad being 21, I used to see YouTubers like you who are such an inspiration: strong and independent woman regardless of your age. You are and have always been an inspiration for the reason I’ve stated above among many others. Just stay true to yourself and I’m sure the right viewers will stick with you.

    Hope you nothing but the best!

  4. February 29, 2020 / 20:34

    Hi Lilia!

    Hope you’re doing well! I just read your blogpost and I just had to stop by to say that I think you’re very brave for posting this. I have been bullied, so I could relate to your feelings.

    You’re totally right. Our world would be a much better place if people stopped to think about the consequences their words can have. Freedom of speech is very important, but that power should be used in a wise manner.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts. You’re a true inspiration.
    Janis recently posted…Freedom of Speech & Hate in Times of Social Media

  5. March 1, 2020 / 01:36

    Hey Lilia
    I also think that all of the hate in the world prevents people from doing things, because somewhere they know they’ll get hate.

    It’s also astonishing that everyone can say everything online, with little to no consequence, but as soon as that person becomes real, people tend to keep their hate speech to themselves. It’s awful that it’s somehow okay nowadays to just tear people down, based on their skin colour or their talents and so on.

    I think it’s brave of you to follow your dreams and to actually make them a reality. For many people this will never be the case, because of fear.

    In my opinion, everyone should indeed say what they want to say, however, it should never just be about hurting someone else. Then it’s just not valuable to be out in the world. Giving your opinion and being hateful is, according to me, something completely different. For example, you could be shopping with a friend and she loves a certain top, I could not like that top. I could say: ‘ugh, you look absolutely disgusting’ or I could say: ‘hey, I really like that top on you, but it is just not my style’. The first one is hateful and you try to change that person to your style, the second one acknowledges the person your friend is, gives her a good feeling and you immediately mention that you wouldn’t wear it. (Of course you shouldn’t say she looks good in it, when the fit isn’t right).

    Anyways, this is a very long comment. But I agree with you. It’s time we build each other up instead of tear each other down.

    Keep doing you!

    And one more thing, I personally love that you have been writing about real stuff. I miss that often in the world. But everyone online being real actually makes them more approachable and more real. Thanks for doing that!

  6. Andrea
    March 1, 2020 / 02:26

    Sad to hear that you suffer so much under these opinions from others. In a profession where you’re so exposed, it’s likely to happen. Yet such criticisms say more about the people who express them than about you. I have been working for 27 years and in all that time I have never met anyone who was too intelligent for the job. It’s funny that you can even assume that. How can someone be too intelligent for his job, who even runs several companies at once? I have also learned that you never know what skills you will need later in life, so studying or training in any subject is not a waste. And to criticize the appearance of someone is just weak.
    Maybe it helps you in such moments to remember that many people like to listen and watch you. Even though we, who appreciate your work, are unfortunately much quieter.

    Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

  7. March 1, 2020 / 14:06

    I think social media gave people the freedom to express their opinions (positive or negative) without any consequences because of the fact you could easily hide your identity and be anonymous. I guess that’s one of the disadvantages of being a blogger/influencer/content creator because it gives the opportunity to others to scrutinise your choices, decisions and every single thing you do in your life. I just wish people were more kinder, especially online. If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. An interesting post as always x

    http://new-lune.com
    New Lune recently posted…Finding Love Near You.

  8. March 1, 2020 / 15:31

    Hi Lily I am just here to spread some love. You are doing amazing job on your blogs and I am here just to tell you that.

  9. Pavlina
    March 1, 2020 / 20:18

    Hi Lilia,

    I’ve always admired how strong you are and how you have been (and are) finding your own path – not things that were expected, but the right things for you. I’m sorry that people tell you this awful stuff. Words can hurt more than any physical injury. I don’t know if it will get better, just know there is a lot of people that love what you do. ❤️

  10. March 1, 2020 / 21:49

    You’re very brave to share your experience, Lilia.

    I’m so sorry that you had to deal with such hateful messages. Especially reading that people said you should kill yourself… that is such a disgusting thing to say! I think a lot of the hate posts on online forums about influencers are driven from a place of extreme insecurity or unhappiness in the posters’ lives. It makes no sense to me why they would say such awful things about strangers who give us a glimpse into their lives and come across as nothing but lovely people!

    I hope you know that 99.9% of us reading your blog think you’re great! :)
    Laura recently posted…90s Grunge Makeup Look | Authentic Tutorial And Historical Context

  11. March 2, 2020 / 12:22

    Girlie girl. You rock! You have it all. Not in materialism but in knowledge!!! My goodness, be young! Do every single thing you want to do!! I dont even know you and I’m just a proud American fan girl of yours… Lol

    Keep living the dream! I hope you always will!

    P.s. I’m still sorry your old friend backed out of being your roommate in LA I could absolutely imagine how that could have been a major bummer SMH

    P.s.s. Have fun in LA happy girl lol && thanks for making me happy as well!! && for all the advice/inspo you give on all the things

  12. Jasmine benabid
    March 2, 2020 / 16:48

    Lillia i am jasmine B , 33 years old young business banker living in london , i do love, you inspire me every day… sometime in my flat i watch your video and i feel like i am chatting with my friend.
    You are smart beautiful brave and did great thing in really short time. And you are really inspiring, take this from a beautiful and smart lady living her dream in London.
    Jasmine B.

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