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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Where’s the good news?

<u wake up in the morning after a fitful night of sleep. Instinctively, you turn on the computer, the unnatural light feels like a punch in the face...but it’s nothing compared to the nauseous feeling that’s permanently settled in your stomach whenever you log onto Facebook to see what horrible event happened while you wasted your time in dreamland. You’re expecting the worst. You’ve gotten used to reading about police shootings, families separated through deportations, international and domestic terrorism, high divorce rates, rape on college campuses, unemployment, porn addictions...truly the list could go on and on. But at the same time, every day you log onto Facebook or look at Google News, you hope beyond all rational hope that today, things will be different. Today, the top story won’t be another one of President Trump’s hair brained “policies,” but a story of hope, full of humanity and love and life. But it never changes; a day never goes by where tragedy isn’t what everyone’s talking about. Because tragedy, just like sex, sells.

Yes, tragedy’s sad and scary, but it’s also exciting. And I’m not saying exciting in a good way. It does provide some form of escapism from people’s everyday problems however; when you read a story about a school shooting, your problems like stress over getting good grades doesn’t seem that bad. And I understand the Internet has made citizens more informed of the problems both in and outside their countries. It has made them demand more from the government, and has led to very rapid mass mobilization on issues (such as police brutality) that arguably would not have happened before the age of the Internet. That being said, I wonder if this constant pressure to find fault in our systems has exhausted the majority of Americans. Because the average American does not go to protests, and their concerns are much less systematic; they’re concerned about their jobs and their mortgages and what their kids are up to. Many are worried about “keeping up with the Joneses” in their suburban neighborhoods. With all the problems facing the world, it could be argued that they are being selfish and complicit…and in some ways, they are. Why do they care that their neighbor has a newer car than them? Why are their concerns over newness and “bigger is better” when many people don’t have homes to call their own? However, instead of judging this complacency, we must try and understand why adults after college become less political, even with more resources than ever to do so. Is it because they have too many other things to do? Or has this constant barrage of problems exhausted their belief in change?

When I’m home, I often get in political arguments with my parents. It wasn’t until this year that I realized why these arguments kept repeating themselves. It’s not that we have dramatically different values; my parents just don’t want to talk about politics all the time. This is something I never understood; with so much injustice in the world, how can you feel good about sitting at home doing nothing? How can you not be angry all the time? How can you see the negatives of colonialism, patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity and capitalism and not want to post a rant on Facebook? But my parents aren’t on Facebook, and their news doesn’t come from the Internet. They like to read the physical newspaper and watch the evening news. They prefer reading newspapers whose goal is objectivity, not publications like Jezebel and Teen Vogue who have a definite and marketed political leaning. Now, there’s nothing wrong with publications taking a stand; I think they have an important place in our democratic news system. We need the news to hold those in power accountable. However, they have consequences, ones that are only now being widely understood after the recent election.

Reading articles that just repeat your own opinions back at you will not create change. Reading them in the bubble of the Internet is even worse. The isolation it causes has traditionally been thought of as a reason for the emergence of extreme Internet subcultures, where the anonymity of its users allows them to preach hate to those who support it. In the mainstream, people’s Facebook pages are filled with their friends’ posts, who in all likelihood share their same views. There are so many articles that have been written on this subject post-election, so instead of talking about Internet-fueled extremism, I want to talk about its numbing effect. There are hate crimes on the rise, and this is in part the result of the Internet’s alt-right movement. However, I think most people on the Internet go on Facebook, see the depressing trending stories, and scroll through their home page to read their friend’s rants on them. But for most Internet users, this is where it ends. They speak, but do not act. They say the same things over and over again, and then do nothing. An event makes them angry for a day or two, and then they move onto the next horrid story. With so much going on, it almost feels irresponsible to focus on one story. However, focus is what is needed to solve these problems. With the media needing to fill 24-hours of news, this cycle of sadness never stops. We aren’t given a moment to sit and think about how to act. We are given a million issues to solve at once, and therefore end up solving none. Maybe this is the “system’s” way of making sure you never challenge it.

My dad made a pretty radical statement about this rat-race over spring break. He said too much information is a bad thing. Sometimes, the more overwhelmed we become, the less able we are to use this power. The more hopeless we become, when fighting against systems whose power is almost unimaginable, we need to be unrealistic and hope against hope. We need to focus on one or two issues and really engage with them, trying to understand the side we disagree with in order to change them. Above all, we need to read stories that show us there is a reason to fight for this world. Stories of strangers helping each other, where strangers become sources of hope, not suspicion. Anonymity is scary because it represents the unknown, and for our own self-preservation we assume this unknown is bad. Once we see that most people, even those we don’t know, are capable of creating and not just destroying. I want trending news stories about ordinary acts of kindness that made the world just a little bit better. It might seem like a waste of words to write about a Corgi beach party (it really happened, Google it!), but we all need inspiration that comes from happiness, not just anger. Or else, what’s the point?

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