A friend once told me, “The minute you realize that the rest of the world doesn’t think like you, that’s when you grow.”
If anything, today is a reality check. I am processing this election in my own way and making sense of all of this in the form of writing, listening, and checking my privilege. I am empowered by my privilege to vote, yet acknowledging my particular privilege in being able to write all of this and the reality that might ensue for those whose existences are being fundamentally challenged in this moment - without this privilege.
One way that I am trying to make sense of all of this is by thinking about social media. As a college student, I realized that social media are oftentimes polarizing. Social media are a vehicle through which most of us re-inculcate ourselves with the same ideologies every day. Right now, as you are scrolling down your newsfeeds, you might not even realize, but you are internalizing, and sometimes adopting, everything you read and “like.” With this in mind, I decided that doing something about this could be the start of something new.
I started following people, organizations, and institutions on social media that reflected those opposite views. I followed a multitude of publications, news outlets, and public figures with an agenda ― most of which differed from views that I hold. If anything, you learn and foster a sense of openness.
On this day, directly following the election, let’s take time to heal, and let's also think about changing our ways. If we should start somewhere in this moment, it should start with our screens - at least this is what I'm doing. Our tangible mediums that we visit at least 50 times a day and try a thought experiment. It could be fun?
Take out your phone and open Twitter. Go to the search tab and follow 10, no, 15 new accounts, at least, that reflect your other side. Your other side is subjective and represents some opposite way of thinking for you. For example, if you only followed Hillary Clinton in this election, go follow Donald Trump. If you follow the Fox News account, go click on MSNBC and some other news sources. If you attend a very liberal university, try to follow student organizations that reflect the other side of the spectrum. If you are a pro-choice proponent, go sift through some posts and arguments made by the other side. Now repeat with Facebook. Then Instagram.
We are what we believe. We form beliefs through reading, discovery, experience, and knowledge. If we spend every day adopting the ideologies of what we read on our newsfeeds, we are giving in to confirmation bias and depriving ourselves of learning and listening to people who think differently than ourselves. Especially at Penn, we are the next generation of leaders. Let's come together and take time to listen.
Today, TableTalk is hosting a CampusCouches event which invites anyone at Penn to come sit down on a couch, meet someone new, and process everything that is happening in a safe space. I challenge you to take 5 minutes out of your day to come sit down. Let's start talking about the issues at hand and how we can come together to ensure a brighter future.
Let’s challenge each other to diverse exposure. Let’s strengthen our own belief systems through the exploration of others. If we do this, then we can work together to believe in a future where we listen to one another and want to engage in meaningful discussion with the other side. Let’s bring ourselves away from the extreme and closer to the essence of democracy ― a place where every voice can be valued - all the while being there for those around us who are truly shaken right now.
Walking through campus today truly felt like someone passed away. It was somber, quiet, wrought with rain, and empty during typically peak times of the day. However, for the first time, in a very long time, people were stopped, stopped in the middle of our usually-packed walk lanes, huddled in groups of two or more in the middle of Locust, talking. Taking time for one another, taking time to talk, and truly engaging in dialogue that is so important to the fundamental purpose of College — to grow.