Students second-guess opinions on social media

December 12, 2020 — by Cici Xu
Screen Shot 2020-12-12 at 8
Photo by Cici Xu

In the past five months, my Instagram has been filled with similar stories and reposts: videos of people raising their fists, demonstrating their strength and courage in the Black Lives Matter movement, some grieving the injustice their compatriots have experienced or protesting their dissatisfaction for their local governments. 

After hearing slogans such as “abolish the police” or “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you are siding with the oppressors,” I began second-guessing my opinions and my role in the movement, which, to my surprise, seems limited to only two options: be an active follower and repost similar slogans to support the movement or remain silent. The third option of speaking up to support a different opinion from that of the majority does not exist. 

After discussing this vexing phenomenon with friends, I realized that I am not alone in experiencing it. 

Junior Joshua Fang, who wants to pursue politics in the future,  believes breaking into malls in protest and abolishing the police are not effective ways of tackling racial injustice but said he is afraid to express his perspectives on social media, fearing his peers would target him and accuse his opinion as “racist.”

Fang’s fear of being shamed from exercising his First Amendment rights on social media highlights the depravity of the new yet intensifying “call-out culture” that vilifies individuals who hold a different opinion from the majority but have done nothing wrong.

“I am not neutral in this situation. I just don’t see a place where my opinion can stand,” Fang said, referring to his choice not to participate in the Black Lives Matter movement. 

However, Fang at least realizes that he is a victim of this online shaming culture, which can exaggerate people’s desire to fit in and restrict people from developing their own political and moral values. 

Many youth younger than us are not aware of the “call-out culture” that remaining silent does not imply one’s approval on supporting the opposite view of the majority. 

“Having 20 similar reposts of a graphic in a row that blindly rejects a second opinion is very discouraging and harmful,” Fang said. “Many of the students who are five or six years younger than us do not have the critical thinking skills yet to digest the social movements thoroughly, so only having a singular opinion on social media can easily have them thinking that that opinion is the norm.”

Junior Kaaya Minocha, who said she is a dedicated activist on racial issues, also noticed shaming of students who are not using their social media platforms for activism. 

“Some people have not been posting on their social media, and I think that’s OK,” said Minocha, who had been expressing her activism through donating, calling representatives across the nation and signing petitions. “Everyone processes it in a different way. There have been people shaming other people for that, and I really don’t think that’s appropriate.” 

Frustrated but fascinated by people’s reactions, Fang posted two polls on his Instagram account asking if his friends support for “defunding the police,” which should be interpreted as narrowing the scope of the work of the police like redirecting the funding to social service counselors instead of having police always dealing with societal situations. 

The result was surprising: 25 people out of 40 voted against and 15 people voted for pro-defunding. Fang then followed up with another Instagram poll asking if his friends support abolishing the police or not. A total of 41 people voted for and 37 voted against. 

Although he said the polls are only snapshots, Fang said they “demonstrated how many people are remaining silent and are just too scared to speak up, fearing that they will be shamed.” 

Fang was excited by what he found while I was extremely upset by the results. Not being able to express your own standpoint on historically important movements like BLM is not only a personal loss of freedom but also a societal loss. 

Ironically, when we are advocating for freedom, freedom was also further constrained. A balance is needed, and we, the student body, can make the change. 

As citizens who hold immense potential to influence our community and the people around us, we should reflect on the delusional phenomenon of only hearing one voice on a public platform and the consequences of posting stories that call-out opinions different from the norm. 

While our district is committed to create school climates and cultures that value “diversity, equity, respect, and compassion” and instruct us to “know and trust the power of our voice” through standing up and speaking up for our own values, we should actively participate in pushing forward the collective mentality of embracing differences on platforms like Instagram by trying to open up the conversation and be mindful of others’ political views. 

“Everyone’s voices matter,” Fang said. “I firmly believe we can build a more unified and inclusive community rather than what we are seeing right now with having only one politically correct voice.”