I’m worried I’m becoming one of “those people.” You know, the people who post obnoxious political commentary on Facebook, as though to wave it in your face and say, “See? Look how civically involved and morally responsible I am!” The people you unfollow online and avoid talking to in person, unless the topic is decidedly apolitical, like the absurdity of midterms and snow.
I don’t think I am one of those people yet, and I don’t plan to ever let my Facebook habits get that far out of hand. But lately, I’ve found myself sharing post after post about events — hate crimes mostly — from across the globe.
I most often post about anti-Semitic hate crimes. To some people, this focus may seem politically one-sided. And perhaps when I post about Islamophobia, others may see a contradiction (though I certainly don’t).
No matter the topic, I’m always happy to clarify my statements and defend my position. I try to shelve my pride and admit when I’m wrong. I do this because — like countless other activists on campus — I think that my peers are not aware enough of issues that I consider important.
Sometimes I question whether I ought to share those articles at all. Isn’t it just needless newsfeed clutter? Won’t people scroll past my posts? Or am I just another voice in the echo chamber?
I recently got a Facebook message from a girl I went to high school with. She was shocked by an article I posted detailing hate-filled propaganda that glorified and encouraged anti-Semitic murders, as well as other articles linking terrorist attacks to this propaganda. She told me this was the first time that she had heard about such institutionalized anti-Semitic propaganda.
She shared that post with her friends.
Even though many of my peers are thoroughly up to date on foreign affairs, I’m glad that by disseminating this information, I’ve helped at least one person learn something important and current.
Moreover, since she had not seen this news on social media before my post, chances are these articles would have been news to many of her friends on Facebook as well.
What can otherwise feel like over-sharing is justified if even one person gets the message. Thanks to the nature of social media, once that happens, the cascade can be exponential.
Even on an individual level, one such instance can change a person’s engagement with the news. This post alerted my friend about an important event that she otherwise would have missed. Realizing this gap in her knowledge, she is more likely to seek out the news on her own.
Just checking the New York Times online for a few minutes, she might read about the violence that rages in Ukraine despite the ceasefire. Or about the execution of 24 Egyptian Christians by ISIS militants.
But what good is awareness? Why should we keep up with the news if all it does is depress us? My friend admitted, “I’m glad you’re telling me all this. I just feel more and more hopeless because there’s not much I can do.”
Most of the time, there really isn’t much that we can do, especially if the issue is something like violence in a foreign country. But that shouldn’t make us hopeless, and it definitely shouldn’t numb us into complacency.
At the very least, we owe it to others to be engaged and informed citizens. We owe it to them to read the news, seeking out sources that are diverse and trustworthy.
We owe it to them to discuss issues that matter to us and to pay attention to our peers when they do the same. Our concerns are often wildly different, and listening to others can teach us more than we could ever find out on our own.
Most importantly, we need to pay attention to the world around us. The world is in turmoil right now: economic, political, social, you name it. We cannot afford to live in personal bubbles or Yale bubbles or even “America bubbles.” We need to care about and fight for one another, or nothing will ever change. Just as Abraham Joshua Heschel linked arms with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, so must we take up one another’s causes.
That can mean almost anything: attending talks and meetings on campus, writing letters to congressmen or marching in protest. But at the very least, it means staying informed. Knowledge may not be the same as power, but it’s the first and most crucial step. If we can successfully use social media to bring important issues to each other’s attention, then the benefits of oversharing outweigh the exasperation that may be its price.
Esther Portyansky is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.