Vassar: Opinions must be accompanied by action

Ethan Vassar

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.  

Thanks to the popularity and proliferation of social media, it’s now easier than ever to spew one’s opinion to the world. Whether it’s tweeted, live-streamed, snapped, or posted, any opinion on the internet is there to stay forever and has potential to be retweeted, screenshot, and shared across the entire world. 

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We squander the wealth of information at our disposal, diluting the conversation with our own misinformed, hasty and uninspired opinions.

Students need to recognize that tweeting is not enough. Sharing Facebook posts is not enough. A college campus is a perfect place to get involved and make a real difference, and that difference won’t happen by putting a translucent flag over your profile photo.

Reading a Twitter news moment does not make you an expert on the topic. Changing your Twitter handle to Never Again doesn’t make you a saint righteously campaigning for gun control and advocating for victims. This type of social media ‘solidarity’ is a lazy attempt at caring.

Tweeting about something is literally the least you can do in any given situation. Tweeting about the hostility and intolerance brought on by the Charlie Kirk speaking engagement is one thing. Creating an organization in response to combat the issue and tabling on the plaza is another.

Columnist Susan Douglas calls this the turn within, “when technological capabilities and geopolitical exigencies should have interacted to expand America’s global vision, just the opposite occurred.”

I could make the case that no opinions matter. After all, we’re living on a rock that hurling through space, part one galaxy out of billions with no conceivable meaning to be found. Despite this depressing fact, opinions do matter.

Without opinions, the world would be very dull. Gazing at the world until it becomes dull to our perceptions, it often takes a different opinion to see the beauty in it again. It takes all kinds of people to make the world, and it takes all kinds of opinions too. Oh, and you are reading the opinion section of a newspaper so it’s safe to assume that opinions still do matter.

Thanks to the ease, it takes so little time to formulate an opinion on something. Opinions are becoming meaningless not because of our position in the solar system, but because of how oversaturated they have become. The more there is of something, the less valuable it becomes and the less weight it holds. We are turning opinions into a commodity.

Taking a minute out of your day to share your opinions on a situation and offer thoughts and prayers to the victims offers very little insight and isn’t helping anyone. It’s just adding to the cesspool of dense discernment. This is such a problem that Twitter is inviting outside experts to improve the “health” of the conversations on the website.

Chief executive of Twitter Jack Dorsey says, “We aren’t proud of how people have taken advantage of our service,” and has announced plans to build a system “to help encourage more healthy debate, conversations, and critical thinking.”

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Thanks to the “bots, trolls, misinformation and harassment” that have plagued Twitter for the past few years, it’s safe to say that opinions on their own can’t change the world anymore.

Novelist Paulo Coelho writes that “The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.” In a world where opinions are becoming increasingly, blasé, this couldn’t be truer.

Emma Gonzales, David Hogg, Jonathan Blank, and other survivors of the Parkland shooting are hardly in the news because of their tweets. They’re in the news because they have organized protests, spoken in public about the issue of gun control, and debated with lawmakers. All of this advocating for change.

Humans are visual creatures. What causes us to change our minds about any given situation or issue is to see how others respond to it and react accordingly. Sure, we may have the opinion that bullying is wrong, but will do nothing when seeing it happen simply because no one else does.

The saying “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” comes to mind. Perhaps a more modern, and cringe-inducing, interpretation would be; “you can tweet the tweet, but can you walk the walk.” Time will tell. If you care about something, do more than tweet about it.

Ethan Vassar can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on twitter @ethan_vassar.