Home Social Justice Opinion: Fugitive Fest Sheds Light on Social Media Effects

Opinion: Fugitive Fest Sheds Light on Social Media Effects

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I’m addicted to social media. I’m on it before I roll out of bed and I’m checking it just about every time I head to the bathroom.

There’s a lot of things to like about Facebook and Twitter, but one thing I can’t get over is how much you actually learn from scanning your news feed on or tweets. And yesterday’s “#FugitiveFest” may have provided my greatest epiphany yet.

There’s a couple of reasons why the armed fugitive story is so intriguing, and those reasons help paint a clearer picture of social media’s purpose in today’s political and real world.

I wasn’t present for the only day the university has cancelled classes in the past several years.  However, I still stayed up with what was going on through, you guessed it, social media. Calls or texts from my friends weren’t even necessary; all I had to do to understand everything that was happening was through scrolling down my Facebook news feed.

After doing this throughout the day, I narrowed the people posting down to two groups: those who were thrilled to celebrate #FugitiveFest and those who were too mature for such a thing and thought the ensuing events were an embarrassment to the student body and the university.

I’m sure the university wasn’t happy with some of the students’ reactions, and you can bet Mr. McDavis was complaining to Mrs. McDavis at dinner last night about how the owners of the Court Street bars are evil human beings.

But one thing that really struck me was how the responses were so polarizing.

Students who didn’t participate in the debauchery not only had to say they disagreed with other students’ actions; they felt the need to bash them as much as humanly possible. I saw posts even saying that they were “a disgrace to their country” and those in Newtown “would be extremely offended.”

Maybe this doesn’t sound familiar to you, but it does to me.

In fact, we just went through this type of mudslinging for almost 11 months, beginning with the Republican primaries last January up through the general election. It’s been argued that our nation’s political parties have never been so at odds with each other and that the days of mutual respect are long gone.

I saw this type of bashing, in fact I still do, for people that felt they had to say something nasty about another’s party so that they could convince others that theirs was the less corrupt one. All you had to do is follow Twitter the night of the first debate to see what I mean.

It’s also, not surprisingly, been a hot-button issue since the Sandy Hook tragedy in December.

This brings me to yesterday’s string of events. You could argue that the people who chose to go drink after classes were cancelled were the “liberals,” the ones who didn’t have strong enough morals to stay at home and show respect for the university’s decision, or, somehow, the victims of Newtown according to some.

Yet, you could also make another argument saying it was those damn Republicans who went and celebrated since they were such big supporters of gun rights. Maybe it was the Democrats who decided to stay home and send a message that this was another reason why we need gun control, and to, of course, rip on their fellow enemies who were enjoying those $5 pitcher specials.

It’s hard to say which argument is correct, but there is one that is certain: people felt the need to tell everyone how they felt about it.

In the book, “Eating the Dinosaur,” author Chuck Klosterman spends an entire chapter on examining why people agree to ever be interviewed, when the benefits of such are so minimal, if any at all. He argues that people agree to interviews because most normal, average, non-famous people have this mentality that they “deserve to be heard,” and that celebrities don’t know anything, but they’re the ones you only ever hear from. It’s almost as if we are all angry that famous people get so much attention for being famous and that it is our right and our purpose to tell others how we feel and our opinions on certain issues.

For years, however, the only platform to do this on was in your home, to your close friends, or, if you were really ambitious, an editorial to the paper.

But social media broke that barrier.  And people went crazy.

For the first time in human history, we are able to post on a platform where we can be seen by anyone. We have our own, personal space that is designated just for us to say whatever we want, whenever we want, and comment on those who are doing the same. That flaming desire to finally be listened to by someone other than our friends and family is finally being realized and there are many who think they can actually change public opinion by utilizing this new tool.

This brings me back to the #FugitiveFest controversy.

The people who criticized those choosing to spend their days doing something else other than sitting at home wanted to make sure their voices were heard again. What’s even more interesting is that almost every one of these posts I read started with “Am I in the minority” or “I know everyone may disagree BUT,” clearly trying to show that they were the ones who had their morals in order and wanted to disgrace those who they deemed didn’t.

But we’ve seen this before. Take a look at conservatives back when Obama looked like he was bagging the election a month before the vote even took place. The same rhetoric was applied. Conservatives felt they were the ones holding the vanguard for America and that the rest of the public was just too ignorant to realize it. So they took to social media to make sure people knew this and invited others to join with them so they could prove to themselves that they weren’t crazy, and liberals probably would have done the same if this was around eight years ago.

For those of you who decided to bash the #FugitiveFesters, I’m not saying you’re bad people for doing so. I’m not even saying I totally disagree with what you had to say, although I can tell you that no one, outside of the bubble of Athens and a 90 mile stretch of 33 West cares or gave a crap about the students’ reaction yesterday.

What I am saying, however, is that posting to your Facebook or Twitter does not make you special or in the minority. You’re actually in the majority, because you, as so many others do, felt that your voice deserved attention and damnit, you were going to get it one way or another. The real minority are the ones who didn’t post at all or the #FugitiveFesters who didn’t feel the need to.

Social media is something that’s changed the way society communicates, but as #FugitiveFest and our current political landscape shows, it’s not always for the better. As long as people feel the need to say something, then social media will thrive. Considering that this describes 95 percent of Americans, it’s safe to say Facebook, Twitter, and the rest have a formula to keep their engines running for the foreseeable future.

And yes, I’m part of that 95 percent too, because you know I’ll be posting this to my Facebook as soon as I get the chance.

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