As many of you may know, the Facebook page “Bison Confessions” has recently been established to offer students a chance to anonymously admit secrets, thoughts and feelings that they’d rather not have attached to their names. While there are some who find this immature, infantile and indiscriminately idiotic, I must confess that I quite enjoy “Bison Confessions,” not just for the blunt, honest and sometimes shocking things that University students will say under pretense of anonymity, but also because I support the philosophical underpinnings behind the page.
I do hope that “Bison Confessions” will continue its policy of leaving the majority of comments uncensored (if not loosening it even further) and ensuring the privacy of those who submit confessions. It is this sort of protection for those who cannot otherwise bring forth their opinions (usually due to social pressures of holding certain views) that is sadly needed to open up conversations
about drinking, Greek life and issues such as depression or loneliness.
Yes, there are confessions and statements that are outright offensive and rude. But people are different and are going to think different things, and naturally some of those thoughts are going to come into conflict. By censoring comments that are offensive or rude, you censor the legitimate expression of difference. If you only allow “correct” opinions to be stated, you erect a systematic groupthink that shuts down the the inherent instability of conversation and renders true dialogue impossible.
If you have an aversion to the implications of the word instability, this might actually sound like a reasonable course of action to you. However, this would show that you fail to realize the consequences of your thinking. It is through instability that innovation arises. New ideas are formed out of not only the chaos of the mind, but also through the dynamic froth and pitch of uncensored conversation. When you shut down the ability to speak freely, you shut down the ability to not only propose new ideas, but also the ability to think of new ideas in the first place.
To elucidate my point, suppose someone makes a racist remark on “Bison Confessions.” Most people (including myself) would find such a thing offensive, but if you censor it and forbid it from being posted, then you shut down any avenue of thought that could spring from this remark.
If you post it, you incite a flurry of activity. You can kick off discussion on the evils of racism or how to overcome it. You can converse on why people are racist. Is it the result of intentional indoctrination or just the result of not having a diverse friend group? Is it media portrayals of certain issues or is there a biological component to the psychology of racism? Such discussions would obviously be controversial and at times would no doubt get offensive, but through the debate, common understandings could be reached, new ideas on the subject could be put forth and everyone could be made a little wiser and a little better off.
Sometimes the beliefs other people have make us uncomfortable. In avoiding things that make us uncomfortable, we shut down our potential. Facing discomfort is how we grow and develop. You will never meet a professional athlete, Nobel Prize winner or political leader who didn’t have to endure things that made them uncomfortable. If something makes you feel uncomfortable or offended, that’s a sign that you should and face it, not run from it. By censoring “Bison Confessions,” you wall yourself off from the world and the thoughts that are in it. Anyone who lives like that has no other destiny but to end up immature, infantile and indiscriminately idiotic.