Has 2017 Made Us Too Sensitive?
2017 so far has been defined as the year of the outspoken.
Whether it's aimed at people speaking out against huge controversies like the Pepsi ad that suggested to us that the secret to world peace was simply in a can of Pepsi, to the continuous rhetoric between President Donald Trump and his critics.
Personally, I'm a big fan of this new found sense of free speech. It definitely creates topics for conversation and gives us the opportunity to voice out all our different experiences and attitudes towards society today. Importantly our new outspoken nature has made people more aware of racial prejudices and gender inequalities that continue to be prevalent in society, with the one of the most obvious examples being the Black Lives Movement.
Whilst being outspoken has come with its benefits, I have have a niggling feeling that the good has come with some ugly... and it has to an extent. With such a bright spotlight on public figures and companies and even each other, every word has to be taken into careful consideration and each opinion has to be carefully articulated as not to offend anyone. It reaches a point that you question whether what you're saying still conveys the message that you originally intended after having made it so PG safe. This makes me question if we now live in a society that is overly censored, where we are too afraid to say what we really think or feel for fear of offending someone.
The recent backlash to the Dove 'Diversity in a Bottle Campaign' hits the nail on the head with this point. For years Dove has worked hard to make their brand synonymous with their 'Real Beauty' campaign that encourages people, women specifically, to be comfortable in their own skin whether they are curvy, petite, tall, short or whatever. So recently Dove released a series of 6 special edition of bottles, each bottle representing a different female form 'designed to show how beauty is diverse and diversity is beautiful'.
Whilst Dove's attempt may be a little bit on the naive side, in the sense that you can't encapsulate the wide array of female diversity in a series of 6 body wash bottles, the concept and the message behind it strive to promote a positive message - that diversity is beautiful and it should be embraced, which is the most important thing. But, of course social media went into a frenzy claiming that Dove's new campaign is not only ridiculous but actually the antithesis of what their 'real beauty' campaign represents.
Whilst the Dove example doesn't begin to encompass the rage of topics that spark controversy, it still raises the point that no action good or bad is excused from being noticed or falling victim to potential ridicule on the internet. I even saw some comments on Twitter saying that the bottles didn't represent true diversity because all of the bottles were white (Dove's signature since forever) and therefore not representative of different ethnicities, I mean c'mooooon. It reaches a point where criticisms are so extreme that it seems like no-one can be pleased and instead of focusing on how to make a positive change, we are chipping away at good natured intentions with our online negativity.
So my question is where do we draw the line on our criticisms?
Drawing attention to wide spread systematic issues in society is of course an area were everybody's voice should be heard and no-ones freedom of speech should ever be taken away from them. My question is simply asking when that when it comes to chastising people or companies that had good intentions, at which point do we transform from educators to bullies. Whilst it may not be a simple answer, if we continue to ridicule those who have good intentions and promote positivity, rather than educate them on how their point could be better conveyed we face the risk of becoming a censored society where people no longer express themselves in an attempt not to be singled out.
As a society that promotes diversity how do we expect to flourish if we can no longer talk about and gain an understanding of several different points of view. Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that people shouldn't state their contrasting opinions but we should learn to do it in a way that is constructive and not result in people being scared to utilise their freedom of speech also.