Our age group, Generation-Y, as we like to call ourselves, has given into the perks of what technology, social media and mass communication have allowed us to speak out. However, we are not all speaking out for the same cause or purpose.
It seems as though half of Gen-Y likes to provoke the other half, and the other half that wants the world to know they are offended by such provocation. This isn't bad; it's actually a good thing. Our conflicting generation's opinions, views and values have started a dialogue that never existed as openly as it does now thanks to Facebook sharing, blogs and Twitter.
As much as I appreciate this openness and enthusiasm to communicate opinions and educate each other, I think it has stretched past the line of appropriateness. It started with people like Malala Yousafzai, who refused be let her oppressive, patriarchal society silence her. Her outspokenness has made her an activist not just for women, but for the oppressed. Brave people like her have encouraged others to speak out and stand up.
But her bravery is sometimes translated into essays on Facebook that try to start cyber revolutions about, well, nothing. Are videos, images and words really as offensive as these social media-ites are making them out to be? Or do the people behind their keyboards just want to start arguments?
I am all for educating myself with posts from friends, but for the right reasons. There is no need to share something you don't actually believe in or agree with. Take a personal stand on a position and make an opinion based on your own position. Here are five ways to survive our generation's conflicting viewpoints:
1. Share what's actually important to you.
If you read or see something online that moves you, share it. Briefly explain it to the people who will breeze over it on their news feeds and then tell them why it's important to read. If it made a difference for you, chances are others will feel the same way. The Internet provides a space for the entire world to communicate, so why not share something potentially revolutionary with more than just your friends? Make a difference by sharing.
2. Consider what could be deemed offensive.
People tend to become offended by a headline if it's controversial, but they may just be confused because they don't understand it. The best way to become enlightened in modern times is to consider playing the devil's advocate. Sleep on it and see if you are as offended in the morning as you were the night before.
Instead of reading an article, looking at photographs or watching a video and slamming your screen down in disgust, take a minute to see the issue from the other side. It's out here because someone out there supports it, so don't be so quick to shut it down without understanding all the facts. Avoid the judgment and focus on the acceptance.
3. Articulate and conceptualize your opinions.
Have you ever scrolled through your Newsfeed and seen a shared post with the caption saying something is horrible? I have too, and I've never actually read them because I haven't gotten any meaningful information from my friend's empty caption.
If something you find on the web offends you so much that you feel compelled to share it, explain it so others can appreciate why you put it out there. There's no shame in being offended by something, but there is no point in sharing it if your only thought on the matter is “ew.”
4. Propose a solution.
The sole purpose of so many articles, videos and images on the Internet to raise awareness. It's wonderful because the Internet is the perfect forum for making the uninformed aware. But the movement doesn't end with an educated population; we have to mobilize after we become aware. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a perfect example of a cause that many people missed the point of. The point of the challenge was to raise awareness so more people donate money to the ALS Foundation, which would then use donations to conduct research to find a cure.
Nearly all of my friends made a video of themselves getting dunked in a bucket of freezing cold water, but none of them donated because they didn't realize that was the point of making the video. Raise awareness so more people know what ALS is, so they can make a difference. A video of you getting wet in a bikini doesn't do anything on its own; it has to be attached to a message. That message is what makes the difference.
5. Embrace our differences.
As we all know, America is a democracy. That doesn't just apply to politics; it applies to our culture, too. We live in a country whose leaders want to hear from us, even though we all have different views on the same issues. That's the point. Because we aren't forced to think uniformly, we shouldn't quiet our differences of opinion.
We should make ourselves heard if we think our opinions are important and valuable. As humans, we are naturally biased toward one side of an issue, so share that bias with others in hopes of getting a response. If people agree with you, that's great; if they disagree, you learn something. You can't lose. So share your thoughts.