The political climate and situation of the 21st century mixed in with the ever growing amount of social media platforms, means that more and more people are choosing to speak up on issues that affect them. This is a wonderful thing that should be embraced, as the more that people discuss important issues, the quicker that change can be enacted.
Scrolling through my Tumblr or Twitter timeline is definitely a surreal experience. On one hand, I see people, mainly those my age or even younger, spreading vital information, calling for action, and leading much-needed progress in this century. The kids who survived the Parkland shooting in Florida publicly called out politicians for their lack of action, and led boycotts on companies that support the NRA. They are courageously standing up for what they believe in and having a massive outpouring of support from like-minded teens; actually influencing policies on a statewide level and garnering much needed media attention, all thanks to the ability to tweet and retweet and spread their voices to millions of people in seconds. I stand in awe of their progress and their ability to work together towards a common goal, and it’s all thanks to the power of social media.
There is a huge ‘but’ that needs to be observed when one attempts to condemn anything that is deemed as morally or ethically questionable in the age of the internet. And that is, for crying out loud, please refine your reading comprehension. It’s that simple. That’s all you need to do.
Let’s take this article which was advertised in Tweet form:
“‘Love Simon’ is a groundbreaking gay movie. But do today’s teens actually need it?” https://t.co/9ScmnaNQCw
— TIME (@TIME) March 8, 2018
At first, my reaction was of pure disgust. One of the most groundbreaking, heartwarming and quite frankly, much needed gay teen dramas is already being met with resistance under the guise of a think piece. And it was published by TIME, a well known and renowned publication.
I saw replies to the article bemoaning how straight people are properly represented and it’s time for gay people to have their stories told; I’ve seen paragraphs written where people share their heartbreaking stories about their experience as a closeted teen in high school, how good it would’ve been to be able to see a mainstream studio tell their story, to see a character share their pain; I’ve seen literal think pieces in tweet form on how a film like this should be celebrated, calling the author another straight guy who just wants to keep gay people from being happy in seeing themselves in cinema.
As I read through the replies, I felt a strange sense of solidarity with these people. These are kids and teens my age or younger who are standing up against homophobia and especially hate being published in mainstream media. It takes courage and great energy to do so.
However, due to the fact that I have the ability to actually click on the link and read it, I decided to reserve judgment first and actually, you know, see what the author has to say before condemning it to the seventh circle of hell.
Which immediately led me to two obvious conclusions:
None of the commenters actually read the article. Or. None of them have critical thinking skills. Or both.
Turns out it wasn’t against a movie like Love, Simon. I’m not going into the details, but it was essentially questioning why the protagonist of one of the most groundbreaking and important queer films seem to fit into a “perfect straight boy” model. The author essentially argues that there needs to be more representation for those who can’t have a comfortable coming out process and those who suffer more from homophobia than an attractive, athletic, white, ‘straight-passing’ gay teen with loving parents. Essentially the argument is that boys like Simon, who grow up in an affluent and liberal-minded family with friends support throughout the whole movie shouldn’t be the only form of representation for this community. And most importantly, a milestone for queer cinema can do better than a cheesy flat-toned romcom.
Let’s put our pitchforks down for a minute. He’s got a point.
Most of the commenters seem to take a quick glance at the title and immediately decided the author is a raging homophobic bigot that wants gay people to die because he dared criticise a rom-com featuring a queer character.
The delicious irony is that the author is gay.
Another case brings to mind when this kind of knee-jerk reaction to social issues are brought to the forefront of my social timeline.
An opinion piece article published in the New York Times was circulating through Tumblr the other day and I had the pleasure of watching the entire discourse explode and be resolved within like, twenty minutes. Actually, let me make something clear, this Tumblr post was simply a screenshot of the article’s title: A Modest Immigration Proposal: Ban Jews.
Now, if anyone were to read it, unless they own a swastika armband, would automatically be quite enraged. Not just at the sentiment but the fact that this type of thought is being published and pushed by one of the most famous Western media outlets. Comments were justifiably angry, calling to boycott New York Times, calling it anti-semitic trash, bemoaning how publishing such sentiments could actually have a body count considering the rise of Nazi ideology in Western countries.
Luckily, I had internet access, so I merely typed in the article name on Google and quickly found it. Within five minutes (I’m a quick reader), I came to the same conclusions with even stronger convictions that literally no one on the internet ever bothers reading articles anymore.
Not to go into too many details again but basically, it draws parallels to the immigration ban by Trump to a hypothetical world where America had banned Jews from arriving at their shores. The author’s main contention is simply saying that those who arrived here, seeking refugee have gone on to greatly improve America in terms of culture and economics. The end of the article demands an answer from the bigots that support the immigration ban to explain how are those seeking refuge from middle east different from those who sought refuge 60-70 years ago.
And, you guessed it, the author is Jewish.
In the age of clickbait and quick journalism, I’d need everyone, and I mean everyone to take a deep breath and actually apply your critical thinking skills to things you read online. And for goodness sake, don’t stop at the title and immediately form an opinion, actually read it.