By Nick Desideri, Columnist
Since going abroad, I’ve signed up for social networks I swore I never would. First came the obligatory, rarely updated travel Tumblr, then the LinkedIn my boyfriend made me get. Even my Twitter has seen an uptick in usage, mostly to Tweet my mom.
But Twitter has uses other than reminding my ever-anxious mother I haven’t been killed by Mexican drug cartels. Since I heard about the #HereAtIWU event, I followed the hashtag on the social networking site and I’ve noticed that the Illinois Wesleyan University “Twitterverse” is self-cannibalizing. Everyone follows everyone, creating a little IWU Internet bubble.
And the IWU bubble has never looked so impenetrable after a glance at the #HereAtIWU hashtag. For an event that was supposed to be about understanding and campus dialogue, a good portion of the responses weren’t just dismissive, but nasty. You might think that students bravely standing up against racism and other campus issues would earn some support from their peers, but that would be far too much sympathy for some at IWU to show.
“Honestly, I love it #HereAtIWU why is everyone making it out to be such a horrible place? This is college not jr high. Suck it up & move on,” wrote a first year student on Wednesday, Feb. 20. Directly below her Tweet was a #HereAtIWU post with a picture criticizing the lack of support rape victims at IWU receive.
Some even took their protests offline. Junior Tim Brinkmann, in protest of an event to foster campus unity, posted signs over the other posters proclaiming #ILikeItHereAtIWU.
“Somebody moved my #ILikeItHereAtIWU signs. I feel my speech has been oppressed…. #HereAtIWU,” he Tweeted Feb. 21, earning points for brevity but losing some for providing yet another example of improper ellipsis usage among college students. The #HereAtIWU tag is full of many other individuals bashing the event, advising sexual assault victims to “grow up” or “get over yourselves.”
Those are nameless trolls that always oppose goodness, similar to people who criticize Beyoncé. But Brinkmann and the first year’s posts touch on something deeper. Both individuals don’t explicitly condemn #HereAtIWU except that the event made the school look bad.
After throwing around the customary social justice words like “entitlement” or “ignorance,” none of them seemed to adequately describe the situation. Sure, there is a willful ignorance of problems faced by peers, but the real problem is more insidious. One individual, in response to another’s experience with racism, crossed out the latter’s words and wrote “I’ve accepted people no matter their ethnicity or anything else.”
“Honestly, I love it here.” “#ILikeItHereAtIWU.” “I’ve accepted people.”
Consistent referrals back to the first person, constantly co-opting experiences of others for themselves. There’s a need to invalidate the experiences because they somehow violate a preconceived notion of what IWU should be like. This isn’t entitlement. It’s self-absorption.
#HereAtIWU’s turnout was in the 200s. Considering that many IWU social consciousness events usually garner fewer attendees than a gay wedding in Iran, the issues addressed clearly resonated with a good portion of campus.
Defending IWU’s honor with flippant Tweets, tacky little signs or vandalism doesn’t do anything for the school except distract the campus from real issues.
An institution incapable of criticizing itself is worthless. No school is going to be perfect. Having the courage to address these issues shows far more pride in and affection for IWU than living in a different reality.
Of course, if people want to live in the bubble, they can do so. But when constructive criticism becomes something to protest, and the experiences of peers somehow mean less because they dare express dissatisfaction, there’s an issue.
After my excursion into the IWU Twitter bubble, I’ll probably revert back to sending super exciting Tweets to my parents. I learned that social networks can be upsetting places. And though it’s something we hear all the time, I was also reminded of another lesson. Nothing you post, physically or online, is ever truly erased.
By Katie Sill, Columnist
This past weekend was the beginning of a series of difficult conversations that will hopefully continue to exist on campus. #HereAtIWU reinforced the need for sensitivity to the discrimination many students are forced to face.
It is widely accepted that these conversations and this sensitivity need to be present on campus.But the sensitivity towards these issues should not impede the conversation.
It’s natural to initially shy away from controversial topics, especially when suffering from the bystander effect. But the mentality of, “It’s not happening to me, so why should I care?” is not enough.
This is an example of an absence of sympathy for others. Undeniably, it is a troublesome mindset that programs like #HereAtIWU seek to combat. Still, as problematic as this mindset may be, it is not the most destructive approach to addressing these issues.
It’s one thing to disassociate from the issue. It’s another when someone consciously chooses to avoid the issue. Choosing to censor discussions so as to not offend or trigger others is just as destructive, if not more so, than ignoring the issue.
I’ve witnessed this, first hand, on campus. People are afraid of being viewed as offensive, insensitive or intolerant, among other equally negative labels. It baffles me because this was the exact opposite of #HereAtIWU’s intention. After all, hiding from the risk of offending others is counter-productive.
The discussions must continue if there is going to be any progress. It’s only through discussion that we, as students, are able to explore the realities of these social problems and how they apply to those in our community. Then we can work together to address these issues and potentially eradicate them from existence on campus.
Already, people are waking up from their hibernation of ignorance and taking action. We as a community owe it to ourselves to continue this progressive movement, and the only way to do so is to empower ourselves through difficult conversations.