El Rancho High School

Freedom of speech on social media taken too far?

*ch-blop* “That chick in fifth period is such a ***** #NoLife #WhatALoser”

In recent years, social media has become the most popular outlet for expressing opinions, thoughts, feelings, etc., in which there are almost no boundaries to what can or cannot be posted. As the popularity of this platform grows, so do the number of users that exercise their “freedom of speech” on a regular basis.

More and more teenagers are given free range on social media. According to the Pew Research Center’s Teens, Social Media & Technology Report, 92% of teenagers in the U.S. go online daily, and 33% of teens have access to a Twitter account.

Social media gives the youth of the Internet a platform on which to stand in the world. Teenagers can say whatever they want, for good or for worse, and they will be heard.

However, one can only ask: is this copious amount of power becoming a problem?

Many students in high school are familiar with accounts, more than often anonymous, made to “expose” the secrets of their peers. A well-known local account would be “SoCal Confessions.” This site had been made for the sole purpose of sending in confessions or pictures about people in their school, regardless of credibility, to be posted on Twitter, along with a caption of their school name.

Students may not see this as a problem, but this isn’t something that only happens within high schools. Social media users are beginning to see celebrities and politicians hop onto this “trend” of posting outlandish remarks without proof. Just check out Donal Trump’s Twitter account for an example.

Claiming the right to freedom of speech is becoming the most popular way to back up controversial or, “problematic,” posts on the Internet. However, not everyone is accepting that answer anymore.

“Just because you have freedom of speech doesn’t give you an excuse to be rude and hurtful,” says junior, Isabel Gonzalez, “like, that’s on you.”

Their First Amendment rights may back social media users, but is it becoming an abuse of power?

“Oh, I think it is, because just comments, people tend to make up phony names, and they log on and they can just bash anybody, and people will believe it,” says El Rancho teacher and Twitter user, Carlos Melgar, “once it’s out there, it’s up there forever, whether it’s true or not, and some people get hurt.”

There are many better alternatives to express one’s self when it comes to social media. Often, people tend to choose the route that gives them the power to say anything without consequence.

“If you can’t say anything to somebody’s face then you shouldn’t put it online,” says teacher and co-manager of the ERHS Twiter account, Phillip Rojo, “You know, that’s a good rule of thumb.”

Even after coming to terms with this information, what can be done about it? Is there a solution, and if so, what?

Rojo and El Rancho teacher, Claire Stubendorff, both seem to believe there’s a chance at fixing the problem at hand.

“I think the first thing is, you have to call people out when they do it,” says Rojo, “Step two begins with educating students and parents and teachers and the community about, you know, what is appropriate.  Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should and when you do say something, you know, you’re accountable for your actions.”

Rojo also believes that retweeting posts without pointing out what is wrong, is another issue that needs to be addressed. “I’ve seen a lot of people put in their bios: ‘a retweet is not a[n] endorsement’ but,” he laughs, “it kind of is.”

“I think the solution is kind of, the evolution of the teenager,” says Stubendorff, taking a different approach, “I see now, even more in your generation, the intellectual awareness comments like ‘I defriended that person because all they post is stupid stuff about stupid people, so I need to block that out of my life.’ So you guys are doing censorship already on your own, where previous generations didn’t have that skill because they didn’t have to do it.”

Social media is always going to be here. No matter how many accounts are suspended, no matter how many Tweets are deleted, nothing will ever truly change. That is, unless, people starts assessing these issues head on, on their own. If you see a “problematic” post, don’t be afraid to speak out.

1 Comment

  • Reply taylor rachor April 3, 2016 at 7:06 pm

    Nayeli Hernandez made her voice heard as she wrote about high school teenagers taking advantage of their freedom of speech on social media. Hernandez states, “In recent years, social media has become the most popular outlet for expressing opinions, thoughts, feelings, etc., in which there are almost no boundaries to what can or cannot be posted.” I agree that twitter is used as an outlet to express one’s feeling and opinionated thoughts about issues or any topic in life. But when is it time to make known the boundaries necessary for using social media politely? It is true that high school students abuse the use of twitter and I can vouch for this first hand due to my experience in high school and constantly seeing “sub tweets” about people making negative remarks. Also, someone from my high school too had an account that was called “Eastlake Memes” where students would send in a photo of another student with a label on the picture saying something about their appearance, personality, or sexual experience. It was an account that seemed funny at the beginning to read things on because it was relatable things like joking about a hairstyle we all went through in middle school. However, it became harmful and took a turn for the worst when it became about calling out people’s personal life and struggles. Hernandez later explains, “Claiming the right to freedom of speech is becoming the most popular way to back up controversial or, “problematic,” posts on the Internet. However, not everyone is accepting that answer anymore.” I think that a bigger issue should be raised for high school students to understand the negative consequences that come into hand for those that experience this cyber bullying. For example, when teachers finally realized their was an issue on social media it was addressed immediately and was threatened to locate the IP address and suspend whoever made the account as punishment. I believe that this should be implemented in high schools all over and express the privilege of social media and that immature behavior that can cause damage to another will not be tolerated.


    Taylor Rachor


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