by Angie Gabeau, Staff Writer, November 2020
After official quarantine and the following restriction-induced isolation, students’ desire to interact with their peers has skyrocketed. Social media over quarantine has been the main communication mechanism, but it has also created many issues. The NG confessions page (@ngconfessions), which started out as a friendly, complimentary, anonymous Instagram account to connect the Nobles community eventually ending up violating community principles and was forced to shut down. The pandemic, the resurgence of Black Lives Matter (BLM), and the rise of using social media casually, all resulted in the takedown of the account and speaks to the new age of social media we are approaching.
As social media continues to intersect with BLM and other social justice causes, the way students use social media matters more than ever before.
Mike Lukasevicz (Class I) appreciates seeing students advocating for issues that affect many groups in this country. Katie Cheung (Class III) explains that with COVID-19’s home isolation, students have had more time to go through informational posts about social justice and learn.
If you are on social media, it is impossible to escape the world of social justice and politics. Underrepresented minorities, ranging from race to sexual orientation, and aspiring allies constantly post on their Instagram about the causes they support and ones to which they want to bring light.
But as some students take advantage of social media activism to show their support, others’ accounts remain silent. Cheung discussed how posting has been controversial, but silence is sometimes seen as unsupportive. “Not posting anything on social media says something,” Cheung said. She added, “Not being political is political.”
Furthermore, although bringing important issues to light is beneficial, there will always be a level of underlying toxicity that accompanies it. Cheung mentioned an example of this: on the Black @ Nobles Instagram page, there was a post with over 100 comments where alumni and current students took part in a heated argument. These groups were fighting over whose stories should be posted on the Instagram page—should we only allow black stories? Or include all minorities? Defining what is wrong and what is right in this very polarizing era is very difficult and sparks the many debates and issues that arise on social media.
The Nobles administration took into account some of the drawbacks when examining social media behavior, deeming it important to speak on and condemn “cancel culture” online. Cancel culture is “a form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles online on social media, in the real world, or both.” (Wikipedia) “Cancel culture prevents us from learning from our mistakes in a positive way, and it is something that we need to address,” Dean of Student Engagement Mark Spence said. Spence notes that people should be actively speaking out against hate and ignorance, while also noting that “canceling” can hinder the growth of an individual.
With immediate access to other people, students are just as quick to post as they are to judge the actions of others. Though Cheung agrees that steering away from cancel culture is necessary, she also recognizes other factors: “Although it is somewhat positive, these discussions about condemning cancel culture can sometimes come off as tolerance, which is not okay,” Cheung said. Spence, Cheung, and Lukasevicz all hope that these discussions will prevent any negative thoughts posted online, leaving only supportive, productive conversation.
The upcoming election has also affected the way we use social media. With mass resharing and reposting (but no fact-checking) and the polarization present in the United States right now, social media has caused chaos. “The amount of time spent on social media affects our thoughts and opinions,” Spence said. He elaborated, “Many people only follow or search for people they agree with, rather than search for ideas and opinions that counter their own.” Many students form opinions and morals based on these posts and videos they see online, which might be harmful, especially if the information is fake or misleading. Social media may influence the outcome of the election, but especially the political stances of Nobles students.
Social media’s rise has also been influenced by the sheer boredom of students. The NG confessions page gained so much traction because so many students were desperate for more time together. Spence speaks to how he would even encourage students to reach out to each other online.
So, how do we connect without the negative impacts social media brings? “Video chat is huge in helping people connect and makes it harder to misinterpret conversations,” Lukasevicz said. Spence further suggested being thoughtful rather than careful about what you post and remembering that posts are out there forever. During these changing and confusing times, we will have to adapt to our new approach to social media and hope that, in the end, it will leave a lasting positive effect on the people using it today.