January 20 2017

How To Be Agent of Change

We live in a negative world. This is a sad statement, but this past election cycle has proven it to be true. My newsfeed on Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram was filled with nothing more than long rants about the candidates for the Presidency and why each was a threat to the safety and prosperity of America. Littered amongst these rants were memes poking fun of a candidate’s appearances, mistakes during speeches or embarrassing bloopers. While I longed for a Tasty video or something light hearted to distract me from the exhausting rhetoric of the election, what I longed for more was an actual discussion of political issues not just grievances about the candidates.

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Facebook is an echo chamber. Those who engage with our posts are our friends, and we tend to share similar opinions as our friends. Expressing oneself in a platform such as this gives one the skewed perception that they are undeniably “right” because a post achieved a certain number of likes or was not criticized. Posted in someone’s else’s account, the same post with a different set of friends could garner the opposite response. Echo chambers lurk everywhere and offer no room for growth. When one surrounds themselves with similar thoughts and ideas nothing new is discovered. This election has offered an amazing discussion opportunity, but I feel that opportunity was missed, and instead of celebrating political discourse with fact based debates we shut down as a nation. We chose to surround ourselves by those with similar opinions, and thus failed to take advantage of the possibility of generating new ideas.

Beyond passive aggressive facebook posts I have been hard pressed to find concrete examples of what people been doing to get results to make the change the so adamantly claim to want on social media. Regardless of your feelings on the national election results, the freedoms granted in America are undeniable. In the Bill of Rights alone we are given invaluable freedoms to fight to be heard – the tools needed to make a real, tangible change. The First Amendment of the Constitution explicitly grants freedom to assemble as well as freedom of speech which lend themselves implicitly to a freedom to protest. Though not spelled out in the Bill of Rights one’s right to protest is protected by a combination of the other explicit rights like those listed in the first amendment. Using this logic however places a strict limit on this right – one’s right to protest cannot supersede anyone else’s right to assemble whether that be to go to school, to go to work, to pursue their own happiness. One’s rights are only as legitimate as they see their neighbor’s rights. When a protest stops someone from pursuing their own happiness then it can no longer be seen as peaceful and it becomes problematic.

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So if posting on social media seems empty and staging a intrusive protest infringes on others’ rights what is left to do? This is a question that has been weighing on my mind this entire election cycle. The answer I have found is simple- we need to engage with one another outside of our communities. Break free of the echo chamber it is so comforting to withdraw to. Push yourself to critically engage with people with different thought processes, backgrounds and ideas. It is through challenging each other’s ideas constructively that you will have you own ideas challenged and grow as an individual. These conversations may not be comfortable, but they are crucial to achieving the mutual respect that is so lacking in the country right now. Agreeing with someone is not imperative but respecting them and their experiences are – we all have differences that is undeniable, but that is not an excuse for the animosity in the nation right now.

With the inauguration behind us, go beyond posting on facebook if you want to make a true change, push outside the safety of the echo chamber it is so comfortable to remain within, fight to make yourself be heard, and most importantly be willing to challenge your own convictions to never stop evolving.

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