Hold your tongue

By Alex Leichenger

In today’s world, everything seems to be worth a comment. A bad day warrants an immediate posting of the details to everyone on fmylife.com.

A surprising occurrence or even something as mundane as walking the dog prompts an immediate status update on Facebook.

Those who need more detail in their two cents of the day, can take their qualms to the blogosphere or to chat rooms.

One of the benefits of the Internet age is that it empowers everyone with an increased voice.

So if you are against deploying more troops in Afghanistan, you are welcome to let us know. If you just want to explain how awesome it is to watch the paint dry on walls, once again, feel free to share.

Even if your views are short of life-changing, publishing them is an active practice of your First Amendment rights.

But along with expanded rights comes expanded responsibilities, and freedom of speech is no exception. All the opinion is fine and well, but only if it is expressed in the proper forum.

This past Sept., egregious violations of this rule established what is most likely the only connection between a certain 62-year-old congressman from South Carolina, and a certain 32-year-old rapper from Chicago.

The congressman gained infamy by interjecting a nationally televised speech by President Obama to shout, “You lie!”

The rapper went even further out of line days later at the MTV Video Music Awards. After Taylor Swift won the award for Best Female Video, the offender climbed onstage, grabbed the microphone from Swift during her acceptance speech, and capped off his antics by publicly humiliating her and declaring that Beyoncé deserved to win the award.

Meet Joe Wilson and Kanye West, the first high-profile examples of a hot new trend: opinionitis.

Opinionitis can be defined as the impulsive expression of one’s opinion in a poor situation, resulting from the lack of awareness of his or her setting.

As our arguments become increasingly virtual, we are all prone to the opinionitis bug flaring up inside of us.

When a thought springs to our minds in the solitude of our homes and computer screens, there is nothing to hold us back from transmitting that thought to the rest of the world instantly. The only restrictions are self-imposed.

When we have strong opinions, what is going to hold us back from letting them be known?

Especially on the Internet, our comments are usually spur-of-the-moment whims.

However, as we get used to this pattern of unrestricted thought, our judgment in formal situations can be blurred.

I’m assuming that our cases of opinionitis have never reached the point where we have vandalized the celebratory acceptance speech of an award-winning singer or challenged the President of the United States’ truthfulness.

Nonetheless, it is a problem we all deal with in smaller doses. Sometimes we don’t realize how speaking out can interrupt or embarrass another person.

In hindsight, it is easy to realize how thoughtless our actions were. But in the heat of the moment, when the reflexes of our tongues are faster than those of our brains, it is equally easy to cross the line.

Wilson and West crossed that line, and hopefully they learned their lessons. One little pause and a little more patience can go a long way.

If Wilson sincerely felt that President Obama was lying in his speech, he could have waited one more day before raising the issue in the House of Representatives.

If West really thought Beyoncé deserved to win that award, he could have waited another couple of hours before sharing such sentiments with us on his blog.

And to all of those reading this column, if there comes a time when you feel you have a spectacular idea that just has to be shared, take a deep breath and consider your surroundings before spouting it out.

You are entitled to your two cents, but make sure you aren’t cutting the line at the register first.