With 2016 coming to a quick close, the media has tried to reinforce its agenda with its focus on giving 2016 a negative name. The media has been filled with mourning for the loss of many celebrities and the outcome of the election through countless memes and sound bites. Through these tactics, the media has striven to consume the audience with their agenda and project a negative outlook on the passing year. But, instead of providing encouragement for the coming year, this negative judgment of 2016 aids the media by convincing the audience to remedy their sorrows through materialistic means. In other words, by drawing attention to the deaths of celebrities, the media hopes to drown the audience in its materialistic message. And, by referring to the election as a complete loss in 2016 with quick memes and sound bites, the media pushes its progressive ideology (with its lacking of analytical thought) onto the audience in a way that is hard to challenge.
Through dragging us into thinking that 2016 was a horrible year, the media demonstrates its focus on the memes and sound bites which emotionally attract people. Using events which have recently happened, the media encourages people to make rash statements and generalizations about the year. When many celebrities died in the week leading up to the New Year, memes suggested that their deaths were indicative of the entire year. Because the media was so focused on these deaths, it made people attach their deaths to the entire year. Linking the deaths to the year emotionally aids the media in trying to make people believe that the year basically and superficially relies on the lives of the celebrities. But, because the media does this through funny memes and sound bites, people are easily lead to believe the media.
Thus, it could be easy to get caught up in the media and believe that 2016 was a horrible year. When all you see or hear is death, progressive ideology, and sound bites, it may seem like 2016 was really that bad. But it is important to not get mixed up with that thinking. We need to remember that we can’t judge the entire year based off of just the last two months. This would be entirely superficial. We can’t only judge the year off of the media’s presentations. What we must do is view 2016 holistically. We must discern in which areas we grew and in which areas we need growth. Judging the year based off of celebrity deaths and the election should be thrown out of the window because none of those things are as important as relationships with Christ, family members, and friends. Nor are those two things as important as understanding things on a deeper level.
The coming of the New Year this weekend allows us the opportunity of meditating on the important things in life. Through recognizing that the media does not provide a meaningful way to judge the year, we will be better able to ensure a better next year because we may be able to deny the media’s idea of the good life.
The week before finals, when I was writing one of my essays, my dad made me realize that I didn’t have to stress out about school as much as I had been. The essay was not where I wanted it to be at that point, and I texted my dad, asking him to send up some prayers for me. I told him that I was stressed that the essay would not be good enough, and that I really needed divine intervention. My dad replied that he would of course pray for me, but that I really shouldn’t stress out about the essay. He pointed out that stressing about work is not worth it because as long as I did my best, there was nothing else I can do about it. From that point on, I fixed my attitude about my essay, finished it to the best of my ability, and moved on to other assignments.
My dad revealed a very important lesson. Oftentimes, we associate our self-worth with our worldly successes. When we do poorly in school, don’t perform the best in sports, and don’t execute well for our bosses, we decide that we are worth less. This is a flaw in our culture. It shows that we value people, including ourselves, for how they can benefit us in situations. We “aestheticize” people, that is, we use people in a utilitarian sense, taking what will benefit us and leaving the rest. Instead of looking at people as unique human beings, we sometimes only see people for how they may help us. And, to a certain point, this may be necessary. We may become friends with someone because we have to in order to survive. But if we are only friends with them for that reason, we miss out on any deeper meaning in the relationship.
When we view our worth as directly related to our worldly success, we limit ourselves to just our capabilities for success. For example, if I thought that I was a great person based off of a great paper grade, I would only be judging my character based on my ability to write. That would be a very inaccurate way to judge myself. Perhaps my grades show determination, will-power, commitment, and an ability to understand. But sometimes people get good grades because they know what the teacher wants, or because they were born with a specific talent. A grade doesn’t directly reflect the time you placed in the course or the level of understanding of the material. Perhaps you understood the material, but simply didn’t test well, or wrote in a particular style that the professor didn’t like. All in all, judging ourselves based on how well we did in the class limits the value of the class itself and shows a lacking in recognizing the transcendent worth in knowledge from the course.
As cliché as this will be, our grades truly do not define us. Although grades and GPAs may affect our scholarships and may demonstrate our determination to do well in classes, they do not always reflect our transformation throughout the semester. We should look at school beyond our grades. Instead of limiting courses to credit hours and grades, we should view courses as ways to grow in our life. We should keep in mind the higher purpose of learning. Like the man in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, who is released from the darkness and finally understands the light through education of the light, we are able to understand things in life in a deeper, more truthful way through education.
Thus, through education, we may learn how to live better. At Hillsdale College, students sign an honor code rather than reading a list of “do’s and don’ts.” The honor code, which states “A Hillsdale College student...through education, rises to self-government,” demonstrates the importance of education. Through gaining wisdom and understanding in education, we are able to understand our role in society and things in life in a deeper way. This understanding, thus aids us in having full lives. Therefore, rather than limiting our education to numbers and letters, we should recognize the greatness in education as that which helps us order our lives for the better.
During my senior year of high school, my older brother, who was attending UCSB at the time, told me the best advice I have received. He told me that if people don’t push themselves past their comfort zones, they will not learn. Through putting ourselves in unfamiliar positions, we learn of the consequences of new actions. Therefore, he told me that I had to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Not only will putting ourselves in challenging positions teach us how to grow, they will help us feel confident in our abilities.
When we use social media, we only sometimes put ourselves in challenging situations. More often than not, we just scroll through, looking at whatever catches our eye. Because of the way social media is structured, most of the content does not demand our full attention. Unlike a newspaper, in which you have to read the article to understand current events and issues, social media usually are something which does not demand the user’s analysis. Sometimes, we read articles our friends share. And perhaps engage in discussions on social media. But most of the time, we pass up on these discussions to avoid hurting other’s feelings.
We use social media to get to know other people without having to do the hard part of actually talking to them. We avoid the challenge, if you would call it a challenge, of getting to know someone and be able to read them to understand what they’re actually saying. Social media gives us the opportunity of filling our lives with almost meaningless noise because it distracts us from the reality of things. It only lets us see things at the surface.
Why do we continually use social media when we get the same results each time? Although we may feel like we get closer to others because we find out about their lives, when we don’t actually develop a relationship with others, the satisfaction we receive fades. Because we don’t have real interactions with people, and because we don’t fully focus on social media, it’s hard to form lasting relationships with people. We return to social media for the same fake feeling of friendship.
Sometimes we use social media to receive our news. We learn about the current events from reading article titles and memes, instead of reading actual newspaper articles. Thus, the things we see on social media, if that is the only way we get news, greatly affects the way we view the world. If we view the world based off of social media’s representation, then we only view the world with the carefree attitude we use towards social media. This makes it hard to take the important things in life seriously because we don’t fully understand the things that go on.
This past week at many schools, students had to write their last papers before finals. This week at my school, and many other schools, is commonly called “Hell week” because of the insane amount of papers. I, too, had a hell week and had to write many long papers. This task, albeit challenging, showed me how mind-dumbing social media is. I used social media as a break between writing my papers because it provided light, brainless entertainment. It helped me realize that the knowledge and satisfaction I get from social media is fading compared to the knowledge and understanding I gain when I write papers.
Knowledge and understanding gained from reading intellectually stimulating articles, essays, and other literature is far more transcendent than the satisfaction from social media. When we use social media, we tend to want to keep checking it habitually to see any updates. But, after reading a good essay, we feel satisfied for much longer for learning something stable.
Jessica De Gree
Jessica teaches 5th grade English and History as well as 11th grade Spanish III at a Great Hearts Academy in Glendale, AZ. In addition to teaching, she coaches JV girls basketball and is a writing tutor for The Classical Historian Online Academy. Jessica recently played basketball professionally in Tarragona, Spain, where she taught English ESL and tutored Classical Historian writing students. In 2018, she received her Bachelor's degree in English and Spanish from Hillsdale College, MI.