Thoughts on Culture

A Speech to Millenials, From a Millenial, About Social Media

I’m going to talk a lot today. #SorryNotSorry

It’s clear the world has lost its way. People are upset, angry, frustrated, exasperated, disappointed, distraught, oppressed, offended, wounded, hurting, apathetic, passionate, etc. Something is wrong. When social media became an outlet for news, everything went downhill. I was a Journalism student so I know how effective social media is for spreading ideas and stories. In fact, I’m about to use it now just to tell you what I think. (The irony…)

Before Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr we had two main ways to find out about world issues: newspapers and broadcasts (either on television or radio). Most news, if not all, was thoroughly investigated before it was published, and journalists try to sift through the opinions and biases to share what goes on. But lately, that’s not what people see the most. News is spreading through hashtags and viral video rants, which get people riled up instead of informed on current issues. It’s so bad we can’t avoid it anymore. As soon as I turn on the news, I’m already getting heartbroken over what I hear. And maybe I should be upset, but social media takes it to another level, causing more division and hate than spreading the awareness we attempt to.

I’m not saying social media itself is bad. Thanks to Facebook I get to talk to my grandma every day. Thanks to Instagram I get inspiration from the photos of my friends’ adventures. Thanks to Twitter I get to see updates from my favourite bands. Thanks to YouTube I learned how to love and take care of my curly hair. Social media itself isn’t bad; it’s the abuse of it to amplify bad news and encourage us to take biased positions. People are more upset about seeing a video of someone attacked than they are about the fact that a life was taken unnecessarily. It shouldn’t take a graphic video to make us realize we have a gun problem, a stereotyping problem, a hate problem, or a justice problem. I don’t want to get much more into that because we are each clouded by our perspectives and it’s time to agree on something. The barrage of posts online is overloading us with one-sided ideas and social media operates to make us see posts like the ones we’re interested in, and that further hinders our objectivity.

This information overload also has the opposite effect on us by desensitizing us. We hear so many things that stories often lose their impact or we choose not to care. There’s too much information. Scroll down Facebook for just two minutes and you’ll experience the dull hum of apathy. If you hate a post you’ll skip it or write a comment. If you like it you’ll… like it. And then move on. Too easy. We are complacent because we know too much. And we don’t care as much because our attention spans are shorter than that of a goldfish. And we don’t know the truth because we only hear opinions.

We need to start with ourselves. We are the current and upcoming generation of parents, educators, scientists, leaders, inventors, public speakers, filmmakers, musicians and politicians. It’s our job to make things better for the next generation. It’s our job to care. Unfortunately there’s an overwhelming amount of 20-something year olds who aren’t focused on developing their character for the responsibilities that are necessary in adulthood. It shocks me to see that people are still engrossed in celebrity gossip and Internet trends instead of paying attention to what is happening our world. We should be listening. People older than us despise our carelessness and people younger than us don’t respect us. This should deeply concern us.

The problems in this world are too tremendous for us to understand or deal with by using the Internet, and maybe it’s not our job to set fires to get people over-stimulated. Look at what it’s already done. Maybe our job is to comfort those who have been treated unjustly. Maybe our job is to take on positions where we can influence people to be more sensitive, understanding, considerate. Maybe a compassionate approach is more effective than an aggressive one.

I hope there are more of us who want peace instead of another war.
I hope there are more of us who would rather respect each other’s beliefs than those who want to force the world into nihilism.
I pray for a time without prejudice.
I pray for a world where children aren’t afraid to walk to the store.
I pray for a world without murder for any reason. Civillian or officer.
I want this to end because this is not okay and we are ALL created equal.

This isn’t possible if we’re watching the world through a palm-sized screen.

We have to put down our phones, have a conversation, talk to each other, build face-to-face relationships and understand each other’s concerns so we can comfort each other. And when we do raise our voices it should come from a place of concern and love as we stand up for the voiceless and the ignored, not from a place of deeply rooted hatred, revenge and disgust.

So what do you think? Should we repeat the same mistakes for another hundred years? Let’s spend less time fighting online and spend more time in line with what people are thinking, feeling and experiencing. Let’s shift away from the distractions of the Internet and get to know each other. Brothers and sisters, let us love one another.

The very thing that was intended to help us get closer has divided us. I don’t want us to live the rest of our lives in the frustration of problems we can’t fix and the desperation to make the causes we care about known. I want us to listen to each other and care more about what is happening to our neighbours. I want us to tear ourselves out of our compulsion to always be online so we can observe and engage with people to realize how similar we are. Maybe then we wouldn’t be so afraid of people who are different.

When we’re united we’ll be deeply saddened when we hear about every death.
It’ll cause us to have mututal respect.
It’ll cause us to seek the real issues at hand because the right to live is always more important than the right to bear arms.
It’ll cause us to keep those in power accountable, and well-trained.
It’ll cause us to be more patient and give more grace to the whole group when a select few are viscious and unkind.
It’ll cause us to forgive instead of seeking revenge and causing a chain reaction.
And one by one we’ll make the world a better place.

If we change how we think and teach others to do the same, it’ll be a rainy evening one day in 2030 and we’ll be driving home listening to the news and smile as we hear about the good things happening in the world. Because we stopped to care.

Wouldn’t that be the day.

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[It’s crazy to think it was only a year after I was born that the World Wide Web came into existence. Five years later, Hotmail launched. My dad worked in IT at the time so he had a computer for us to learn and play on (a really, really old one). And it was okay. We had an hour maximum a day on it to play games and that was it. Then we’d go back to climbing trees and playing Sandman. It’s shocking to realize it only took about a decade for humanity to become so involved in a digital existence that we are actually struggling to regain the ability to communicate effectively.]

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