“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” — Exodus 20:16.
I remember to this day the rhyme — “sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Sadly, I learned, like we all did, that words indeed hurt, and false witness against one’s neighbor has destroyed many a life. I don’t think Moses or God had social media in mind when the tablets were inscribed and God suggested that false witness was in the same category as murder and adultery.
When you reach my age you will have known many a friend or acquaintance who couldn’t handle the pain and depression brought on by “words,” especially when the truth is stretched or intentionally misused. Statistics show that our children are increasingly troubled by the use of social media to shame or ridicule.
Freedom of speech is an important human right, but I would suggest that the pendulum may have swung too far when there are no practical remedies for deliberate “false witness” or “mean speech.” It is too easy to bear “false witness,” and almost impossible to rebut social media attacks. One need only to watch political ads to understand that “truth” has been sent to the closet.
Until we as a society do a better job of policing “false witness,” I suggest we at least remember that we have a moral obligation to not bear false witness against one’s neighbor and to add a restraining button to our keyboards.