Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a titan on the bench, and her agitation for womens’ rights throughout her long career is deserving of praise and celebration. Her contributions to the Court and to society were immense, and I, along with the entire Close community, mourn her passing and honor her achievements.
Nonetheless, a school ought not pick and choose which Supreme Court passings to commemorate and which to ignore. But St. Albans has done just that. The school honored Ginsburg with celebratory social media posts, partially captioned “we join the country in mourning the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” and the school community has united in collective lamentation — rightfully so.
But where was the fanfare at the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016? His death was greeted by not so much as a peep from St. Albans School.
Some might say that Ginsburg deserves unique recognition because of her special role as an icon for women and young girls. Others might assert that her legal contributions were greater. Neither is a valid argument for denying Scalia similar commemoration.
Scalia, the first Italian-American justice, was an inspiration to many of that demographic. He was a hero for many Catholics too, fiercely protecting the lives of the unborn and dedicating himself to his Roman Catholic faith. On the legal front, Scalia is widely regarded — by both his advocates and his detractors — as one of the most influential justices in modern history. He pioneered textualism and shaped the present-day interpretation of law. One way or another, Justice Scalia made significant and lasting contributions to our nation.
The cynic in me fears that St. Albans has chosen a side, willfully celebrating one jurist over the other. Let us hope it was only an oversight.
Lily Moore '20
With over 800 million users, TikTok is the 9th most used social media app of all time, surpassing popular apps such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, and Pinterest. With over 2 billion downloads, TikTok has taken over the minds of its users, who collectively view over 1 billion 15-60 second clips daily. Available in 155 countries, and most popular in India, TikTok has a very diverse user base.
However, 41% of users are between the ages of 16 and 24 and are from my generation, Generation Z. The rise of TikTok has had a variety of effects on my generation. For starters, it has made celebrities more accessible than they have ever been. With the ForYou Page, the home screen where you can scroll through TikToks suggested to you based on your interests, celebrities can easily interact with fans. Whether it be liking, commenting on, or duetting a video, it has become an online community where people are rarely elevated over one another, and most people are just there to have fun and pump out content.
That being said, there are still levels to TikTok. Since the fall of 2019, TikTok star Charli D’Amelio has risen to a whopping 90 million followers on the platform. In addition, her Instagram has 30 million followers, and she has 7.36 million followers on YouTube. This rise to fame has led her to appear on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Good Morning America. TikTok has become yet another platform upon which people can achieve stardom, arguably in a faster and easier way. TikTok celebrities have taken advantage of this influence and are branching out with brand deals and movie roles.
This platform isn’t a low-paying medium, either. In the past year, popular creator Addison Rae has earned over $5 million from the app, with D’Amelio behind her at $4 million. These stars are making a livelihood off of something which most people do not believe requires talent. D’Amelio and Rae rose to fame by recreating popular dances on the app, lip syncing to songs, and using the same sets of moves for each video. While both are trained in dance, TikTok has opened up new opportunities for them. D’Amelio wants to be a professional dancer, and the platform has allowed her to showcase her skills and provided her with a variety of professional opportunities. For example, she performed with Jennifer Lopez as a part of the Superbowl Halftime Challenge and recently participated in a challenge to promote Lopez’s new song.
In addition to D’Amelio, a number of different “houses”, or groups of TikTokers, have emerged. The first house was introduced in the fall of 2019, the Hype House. Hype is a term commonly used on TikTok in reference to someone with growing fame. The Hype House is a group of TikTokers who moved into a LA mansion together to pursue careers on TikTok. The rules of the house required that each member make at least 3 TikToks per day to post on their individual page, as well as make TikToks for the house’s joint page. Once divisions arose among the house members due to dating and cheating scandals, a number of new houses surfaced, including the Sway House, the Clubhouse, and the House No One Asked For. All of these houses include a conglomerate of famous TikTokers who create content for their massive fanbases. Many viewers complain that these houses have created a divide on TikTok, and that these creators should not have this “fame.”
There are also many sides to TikTok. The “houses” are one, but another is the highly political side. Many controversial TikTokers take to the app to express their views. Creators like PoliticalHollie, NickVideos, PoliticalJew, and many more creators post videos expressing their support or dislike for Donald Trump. PoliticalHollie has come under the most scrutiny as a woman supporting the president, as well as backing anti-abortion measures.
The final side of TikTok is the creators who just want to have fun and create comedic content. These creators are often referred to as “unproblematic creators” who simply want to make their followers laugh. These creators have invented a new language for our generation, which has taken over the way that we speak to one another. For example, fairy comments and hearts are now an insult, the laughing emoji is ironic while the crying one means laughing, and we talk about ourselves “evaporating” to convey that we’re laughing. Those are just a few examples, but it’s clear that the language of TikTok is quickly becoming the language of our generation. So, when you hear someone saying “JAIL” when someone else makes a horrible joke, you’ll know where it comes from.
Ava Dettling '20
Have you ever imagined a love scene between two mannequins? Well, lucky
you, because that might just be what awaits the film industry. Due to the pandemic,
Hollywood has taken drastic measures to halt filming for the last 7 months. TV shows
have been cancelled because of lack of funding, release dates have been endlessly
extended, and theaters have been shut down; the entertainment industry is at a dead
However, it couldn’t be completely snuffed. Actors have come together in Zoom
reunions to perform table reads from many beloved classics, such as Princess Bride
and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston shared an
unbearably awkward interaction as Morgan Freeman narrated the famous pool scene of
the latter. While these reunions warmed the hearts of movie-lovers everywhere, if I
wanted to see awkward dynamics over Zoom, I would have watched the 2020 One
As much of the nation enters Phase 2 of recovery, Hollywood has opened up its
loving arms to a cold wall of heavy restrictions and safety precautions. The social
isolation we’re all so familiar with is now seeping into the silver screen: actors will no
longer be allowed within 6 feet of each other, casts will lean to less vulnerable age
groups, like children, there won’t be any crowd scenes, real-world set locations will be
limited, instead gravitating to more filming outdoors, and less involved on-screen
relationships. Get excited for some mannequin loving. The lamentable state of America
at the moment has sparked thoughts of overseas production. Directors of the new
Matrix 4 have caught on and are now filming in Berlin.
Like a dagger to my indie-loving heart, the pandemic has suppressed much of
Independent and Arthouse movie production due to lack of funds. While many movie
industries are struggling, blockbusters and mainstreams are definitely coming out on
top. Much of current film revenue is due to large-scale screenplay adaptation rather
than original screenplays, evident from the recent live-action release of Mulan.
Speaking of, release methods took a substantial hit during quarantine. Production
companies were forced to either extend the theatrical release dates until the end of the
pandemic, or resort to home releases through streaming services. Mulan recently
released to Disney+ for a hefty $30 in addition to a Disney+ subscription. As select
movie theaters have hesitantly opened up, producers were met with another
disappointment. As opposed to the typical 74-day theatrical window (the period between a theatrical release and a home release), only 17 days have been given to companies desiring a release in theaters.
With all these restrictions and filming only having recently begun, I’m not hopeful
on the movie selection for the next year. However, it has forced the industry to get
creative. I believe we’ll see an influx of films relying on pure dialogue and storytelling to
get around these restrictions. Particularly, more paranoia and psychological horror
movies. In order to navigate health precautions and low budgets, the horror genre will
revert to good old-fashioned mental torture. The found-footage trend could make a
comeback, putting out more movies like The Blair Witch Project. Even though many say the indie genre will struggle, I think this genre offers the most flexibility and safest
environments for cast & crew. For example, the Before trilogy has modeled surprisingly desirable pandemic conditions despite being made between 1995 and 2013. The cast for all three movies essentially consisted of two people, the entire premise was a long conversation over a walk through a city, and each film only took between 15-25 days to film. Under these guidelines, less actors are at risk and there is less opportunity for infection. Additionally, it’s a lot cheaper. However, these are my favorite movies, so it could just be a subconscious wish for more of them.
In all honesty, the film industry has been declining way before they had to deal with a global pandemic. Big production companies like Warner Bros and Universal were releasing 25 movies a year into theaters, but they only released 9 in 2019. With increasingly competitive streaming services, the movie-goer numbers and ticket sales have stayed stagnant since 1995. If there is anything good to come out of this lull, it forces creativity and innovation in the film industry and subversion of their traditionally set-in-stone methods. Perhaps it will be the necessary shake-up we’ve all been waiting for, or maybe it will churn out some laughably awkward movies. Who knows?
Spencer Parizek ‘23
“There’s a pressure to conform to a specific set of adjectives when it comes to masculinity and femininity,” Teddy Palmore ‘23, observes. “Girls do things that have become taboo for guys to do, which might come off as weird or even gay”. Palmore refers to an expectation of gender norms which create a fear that many of us have, although not everyone is conscious of it. Have you ever felt pressure to conform to what is stereotypically masculine, feminine, or even ‘correct?’ These feelings are understandable and very widespread because society often criticizes self-expression. This criticism is transparent in social media posts, particularly those of men on Instagram; it appears in a manner which implies a weakness in women and requires separation of the two ends of the gender spectrum. Society then perpetuates this behavior through the spread of this disconnected and elitist view.
When masculinity is placed in contrast with femininity, there is this archaic belief that manhood must be a polar opposite to its counterpart; this becomes especially problematic when we associate men with strength. Here lies the root of the supposed “weakness” of femininity. Following this logic, because women are associated with things like makeup, skirts, heels, and skincare, they remain the sole audience for these topics in the media and men cannot touch them. The simple prospect of some subjects being involved with the ‘wrong gender’ gives way to a barrage of rude comments to shut them down immediately. Abigail Leon ‘23 recalls how she adapts her Instagram poses based on the style of her outfits, saying, “I feel like I have to change the style I pose in when I’m wearing a flowy dress, for example, to conform to more feminine traits. The reverse happens when I wear a polo shirt”. We give the positions and colors of the pieces of fabric which form clothing such significant connotations that when worn, some women feel the pressure of residing within that singular category. There is a widely accepted fallacy here in the process of blurring the lines of masculinity and femininity. The common consensus is an appeal to shame, implying that something is automatically wrong simply because it is looked down upon by society. We are not all rampant misogynists, but these group mentalities go to show that a degree of sexism or at least separation based on gender is deeply embedded into our society.
When men show any clichéd womanly characteristics, whether it be apparel, emotional well-being or vulnerability, they are called out and ‘corrected.’ In doing so, men repress a true sense of self in order to fit the norm. These emotional restraints emerge even in the seemingly closest of friendships. I experienced this firsthand last May. After posting on Instagram in new clothes which made me feel confident, I immediately got a mixed response of comments. The majority of responses were supportive, but a few of my closest friends shot me down. They thought the fact that I was trying to be fashionable was “feminine,” and they warned me that girls might “get the wrong idea”. According to them, they had the authority to tell me that (trivial as they were) a shirt and pants were incorrect and put me back in my place. Michael Fujiyama ‘23 has had similar experiences. When asked about what he has witnessed at St. Albans, he responded by expressing,
“Sometimes [the students] don’t realize the things or ‘jokes’ they say have a negative impact on you, but you can’t say why because you’re afraid… that’ll be viewed as weak or you’ll be called overly sensitive or a ‘little b-word”.
Everyone has emotions that should always be respected. However, in the blatantly toxic, “manly” atmosphere he was in, the offensive “joke” was brushed aside under the pretext of being a “real man”. In both examples, the common theme was an attempt at liberty from our set expectations as “men”. Of course, they both ended poorly. Unfortunately, in most cases, this strict environment is the only one a lot of men know; they are therefore forced to conform, which creates a domino effect wherein the same men who were called out do the same to others all for the sake of acceptance.
A sense of social, legal, and economic separation still exists between the two ends of the gender spectrum, placing males above females. The process of legal equality seems to have diverted attention away from how our socioeconomic bias is outdated. Just because we largely have the same rights, does not mean that we are treated equally. Nevertheless, we have made massive strides and I hope we have a welcoming future ahead in all realms, particularly social ones, in America.
Henry Brown '23
It’s 2035. You’re travelling from New York City to Washington, DC in 30 minutes, over five times quicker than fifteen years ago. The pod you are travelling in whizzes underground at 760 miles an hour, allowing you to live and work nearly 200 miles apart. New technology like this has revolutionized travel around the world, adding billions to the global economy and making long-distance travel cheap and fast. This was Elon Musk’s dream in 2013, when he released the Hyperloop Alpha papers. Since then, news outlets have been head over heels for this technology. Headlines read, “Hyperloop Moves Closer to Becoming Reality,” “Elon Musk’s Hyperloop Dream May Come True -- and Soon,” and “Northeast Hyperloop Could Transform the Future of the Region.” Yet, in trials, Hyperloop is yet to overtake high-speed trains in terms of speed, comfort, and economic viability and still has not held a single rider. In comparison, Japanese bullet trains have transported over 10 billion passengers, often reaching over 300 miles per hour and have an impeccable safety record. Will the Hyperloop be to the U.S. as the bullet train is to Japan? Or is the media overhyping this fantasy of Elon Musk’s?
One of the major challenges facing Hyperloop is the ability to compete with modern modes of transportation in terms of capacity. As Francesca Street of CNN reported last April, a “Dutch Hyperloop plan eyes Paris to Amsterdam in 90 minutes,” a journey which takes almost five-and-a-half hours by car and just over three hours by high-speed rail. Should this become a reality, the Dutch company Hardt Hyperloop claims that such a “network would significantly shorten commuting times” and “[offer] ‘remarkable economic benefits.’” The start-up’s CEO also mentions that the pods hypothetically could transport over 200,000 passengers per hour each way, rivalling the capacity of some Japanese and European bullet trains. However, as the article continues, Street writes that “on paper, it sounds like a win,” but this number is undoubtedly unfeasible. Each pod would only be able to hold around 30-40 passengers, and with a pod setting off every 40 seconds, this would only carry at most 3600 passengers per hour. While the current high-speed rail system has two parallel tracks, over 90 tubes, each 300 miles long, would have to be constructed to match rail’s capacity, which would be quite the expense. Is this possible? Well, yes, technically. However, this expense would not only include the construction of such a system, but also the massive cost of operating 90 near-vacuum tubes. Despite a promising headline, Hyperloop will not be coming to the EU, at least anytime soon.
Additionally, the safety of a Hyperloop system will be a significant hurdle companies investing in the technology would have to overcome. In a segment from NBC’s TODAY show titled “LA To San Francisco In 36 Minutes?”, a representative from Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), a leading Hyperloop company, explains that “[the technology] is a fairly safe way of moving around.” However, Shreyan Mitra ‘23, who has great experience in the topic, disagrees. In the event the near-vacuum tube cracks, “the [pod] would just break and [passengers] would be put under enormous pressure due to the implosive force of rushing air.” Furthermore, any survivors “would die with the following outward shockwave,” mostly because their organs would be ruptured. Pretty gruesome, right? In earthquake-prone California, most riders would not want to take this risk, even if it is incredibly rare. Across the Pacific, Japan’s Shinkansen bullet train system has seen a grand total of zero deaths over the past 50 years, even with over 10 billion passengers. California is already building a high-speed rail system connecting LA and San Francisco through the Central Valley. While this may take longer than 36 minutes, passengers will enjoy comfort in knowing their train won’t implode.
Without a detailed understanding of this technology, one might assume that the Hyperloop is the future of infrastructure on our planet. However, as with all things Elon Musk, we must look to the stars. The Hyperloop may have a home on Mars, where atmospheric pressure is less than one percent of Earth’s.
While most things about the Hyperloop are uncertain, one thing is. The media attention around the ultra speed train blocked productive conversations about the tech from happening. Instead, people looked to the headlines and could have been deceived about the purpose of the train. In the Hyperloop’s case, reading only a headline prevented a nuanced conversation. Before forming an opinion, read all of the facts, preferably from various sources. It might just save us one day.
Emma Fullerton ‘22
The “Myers-Briggs 16 Personality” test shed light on many of my personality traits. I have the ENTP-T personality, which classifies me as “the debater.” Prone to playing the devil’s advocate and seeking to “flex my intellectual capacity (their words, not mine),” I have often found myself in the middle of endless debates.
Loving debates is an addictive vice of mine, which is most apparent when it comes to my engagement with comment sections. Whenever I see a controversial political post, especially one spreading fake information, my first instinct is always to check the comments. I love seeing what others are saying and learning about the general opinion on a post. However, every now and then, when I see a comment I strongly disagree with, I feel I have no other choice than to reply to it.
Picking an online fight with someone is always exciting, especially when their ideas and opinions clash so strongly with yours. I experience that very often as someone with moderate and central political beliefs. Sometimes you can get a strong back-and-forth going between you and the person you’re opposing, but other times the conversation simply ends with the very simple reply “No” with the red heart emoji attached to it (a favorite among GenZ).
Other times, my arguments end with the other side not using civil tactics. Many choose to insult me saying I lack basic intelligence or that I don’t deserve to live in America. One thing I’ve noticed throughout my online arguments is that these insults and threats aren’t specific to one opinion or belief; everyone has the option to use these ineffective argumentative tactics.
I’ve had comment section debates with a variety of people with a variety of political beliefs. The one thing that doesn’t change among anyone, however, is the rigidness of their beliefs. Not once have I ever convinced someone they were wrong. And while this may be due to the fact I am an ineffective debater, I prefer to believe that people today are simply too set in their opinions.
The growth of social media has prompted the growth of political debate and political education, especially in our generation. And while it can be a great tool for spreading ideas and sparking discussions, I believe it has helped polarized the already very divisive current political climate. Social media and comment sections have created a dangerous “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality, which is a threat to our democratic society where compromise is necessary for politics.
Like I’ve said before, no one opinion or belief is immune to this. Today, especially on social media, people simply refuse to acknowledge the flaws in their argument and the strengths in the opposing argument. This is something I have definitely struggled with as well. It can be hard to accept when you may be wrong or when you’re misinformed, but that’s simply part of the growth that is necessary to every person in order to become a less divided nation.
Elizabeth Khludenev ‘23
If I had a penny for every time a friend asked for my approval before posting a picture on Instagram or finding the perfect caption, I could afford an entire year of education at NCS. This is because social media has become an extremely judgmental place and there is no denying it. For many people, every like, every comment, every follow sends a unique message about who they are and what they stand for and value. Every picture posted implies an underlying message about the identity of the poster. Somehow, our generation has managed to take an entire platform of media and data sharing and transform it into a huge ruler which now serves no other purpose than to measure attractiveness and popularity through what we post. There exists a meticulous system of unspoken norms that most Gen-Z users feel pressured to follow. I have pinpointed three of the innumerous unwritten rules to shed light on this questionable web of unnecessary judgment.
1. Glorify your own image. Although this may seem obvious to many users at first, it is something that we often think about subconsciously. What’s wrong with portraying yourself in the best way you can? Why would people want to see the negative parts of others’ lives? However, I would argue that it is about much more than just “looking your best.” I think it’s safe to assume that we all know the powers of photoshop and skillful editing. A couple of clicks can turn a mediocre picture into a bright and impressive photo. The problem with this is that it creates an illusion of a “perfect person,” which can be incredibly detrimental to onlookers who admire this ideal and think lowly of themselves as a result.
2. Follow the trends. Again, this somewhat “rule” seems harmless. What’s wrong with doing the latest TikTok trend with your friend or posting an Instagram story for their birthday? However, it is not so much about just following trends, but more about the trends themselves. The thing about trends is that once a group of people starts doing something, everyone starts doing it too. And this kind of chain reaction can be very dangerous when the trends themselves are unproductive or performative. Take, for example, the recent “#blackouttuesday” trend. When I opened my phone that morning, my feed was flooded with black squares and hashtags which, although may have originated from good intentions, ended up being performative acts that hurt the movement they were trying to aid.
3. Embody a Perfect Medium. I find this expectation to be the most impactful in a teenager’s life. It is the idea that everything we post must be a perfect balance of diverging messages (paradoxical, I know). The mindset that we don’t want to seem too unique, but we can’t be basic either; that photos look ugly without filters, but the filters shouldn’t be too obvious; that captions shouldn’t be too cringy, but not dry either. These are all norms to which we try to adhere to and constantly contemplate, creating an obsession with perfection and an almost impossible standard for us to reach.
I know what you may be thinking: “Why are you criticizing these unwritten rules when they are such a normalized part of social media?” And to that I tell you, something appearing normal does not make it right. We all feed into this complex network of unspoken rules and although many of us criticize them, we still abide by them most of the time in order to fulfill others’ expectations. This entire situation is founded on the idea that we must always go along with what everyone around us thinks and expects from us. Why do we, as teenagers, feel such a need to gain approval from others? And what greater message are we sending to the world in which we are growing up?
Nicholas Maguigad ‘21
The music industry has always been heavily reliant on live performances. Millions of dollars in ticket sales have been lost, and many concerts and live venues have been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, leaving many musicians and artists uncertain about the future of their craft. Luckily for DJs and EDM fans, the digital landscape of social media has changed the course of the industry in productive and interesting ways while they await the return of live shows.
Social media has had a huge impact on the electronic music scene, most notably through live streams. Many online platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitch have become a new home for many DJs. The trend started off small but really started to gain fervor after DJ and producer Diplo began his weekly Saturday night stream, Coronight Fever.
The first few weeks had small viewership for someone with superstar status, usually hovering around three thousand viewers. He only streamed on Instagram Live, and the backdrop was simply his room, a tv screen with trippy visuals, and some disco lights. But as the nights continued, Diplo found ways to innovate and set himself apart. First, Diplo started to stream to multiple platforms at once: YouTube, Twitch, and Instagram became the central platforms for his stream to grow. He also invited DJ Dillion Francis on the set (a DJ performance), making his stream a collaborative event and doubling the audience with double the fanbase. The most popular addition to his live streams was his greenscreen, allowing for fun and interactive visuals to keep viewers engaged. Soon, Coronight Fever became a fan favorite event, pulling in thousands of views on all three platforms, especially Twitch. The popularity of Coronight Fever on Twitch undoubtedly contributed to the spike Twitch’s overall viewership and encouraged more DJs to confidently stream their sets.
Also, Diplo and Dillon Francis streamed on their Twitch channel, MadDecentLive, named after Diplo’s first record label. By live streaming on his own label’s channel instead of a personal one, Diplo drew attention to lesser known artists who also streamed on the label’s channel. Before the live stream craze, lesser known DJs had few options for exposure, one being opening for bigger DJs. Opening a concert is limiting in terms of exposure, as only the fans at the live concert actually get to see the opener, and that’s if they’re even paying attention; most people wait for the main event to really hit the dance floor. With the rise of social media platforms serving as new homes for DJs, more people can access the streams and even re-watch them, depending on what platform the DJ uses. Online exposure is on the rise for electronic music, and the opportunities for new stars have never been better.
The post-pandemic club scene is also ripe with opportunities. Many club and venue managers pay big money for top DJs in order to draw a large crowd. However, as reopening begins, the restricted nature of safety precautions will limit the possibilities for large crowds, making big DJs a waste of money for clubs and venues. This constraint incentivizes clubs and venues to find smaller, local talent instead. Due to the increase in social media presence and live streaming, many of these smaller DJs have hours of mixing that they can use to promote themselves to venues and managers. The post-pandemic clubs will most likely resemble the diverse underground scene from which electronic music originated. Overall, the combination of social media and live streaming has sparked endless creativity in the realm of DJing and has brought about a new age of prosperity for the electronic music industry as a whole.
Lucie Gray-Miller ‘22
If you are someone between the ages of 10 and 23, then I am sure you have heard of the well-known application: TikTok. Appearing in 2018, TikTok has quickly found its place atop the social media genre of the App Store. The application’s self-proclaimed mission is “to inspire creativity and bring joy.” Nowadays, it seems like everyone from Howie Mendel to “The Washington Post” has a TikTok account. Even child predators have TikTok accounts. Yes, you read that sentence correctly, for the presence of child predators on Tiktok is not a new phenomenon. I vividly recall the user @TheBudday (pronounced bidet) gaining notoriety for a video of him dancing to a song by Falling in Reverse, and several young girls duetted this video. I was puzzled at first thought, but I soon discovered that he was sending sexual messages to underage girls (whilst fully aware that they were minors). This is only one example of a predator using Tik-Tok as a means of selecting victims. Popular accounts such as @JeyJey, @BenjiKrol and more have been exposed for sexually harassing and/or grooming children. Grooming, in this sense, refers to when someone builds an emotional connection with a young person to then manipulate, exploit, and abuse them. TikTok’s past efforts to combat this predation include requiring a minimum age of 12 to join the app and changing settings so that users can only message people who follow them back. In all honesty, TikTok still has a long way to go.
For starters, TikTok should develop a warning system for harassment. If an account has received more than three claims of harassment or predatory tendencies, then TikTok should suspend that account until an investigation can deduce whether any truth lies in the claims. Although an investigation may take a while, this tactic could potentially hinder said account from harassing others. It is impossible to verify age since children can always lie. Despite their defiance, these children are still vulnerable targets for online predators. TikTok should protect them by any means necessary. Countries (e.g.: India) have decided to ban TikTok entirely to combat this problem (and many others), but this is quite extreme. Indeed, they solved the problem with which I am most concerned, but they also created another problem.
It is hard to regulate safety on an application like TikTok without infringing upon freedom of speech. Many TikTok trends, especially dances, can be promiscuous; when children decide to participate, these already- promiscuous trends start to dance along the line of child pornography. Albeit necessary, it is hard to prohibit children from viewing and recreating these videos. TikTok has tried to replace some songs with their clean versions compared to their explicit ones, but there is nothing the app does or can do about dances. So, where do we go from this point?
Social media teaches kids a lot, and it opens many doors for communication. Surprisingly young children are seeing how impactful it is in society. As they get caught up in the excitement of it all, they may disregard online safety and accidentally open windows of opportunity for sexual abuse and hyper-sexualization. There is no need to completely ban the application, but make no mistake: Children’s online safety should be addressed expeditiously.
Lachlan Sidak ‘21
Up until the past few years, many would have argued that private news stations in this country are vastly better than the state-run propaganda stations of authoritarian countries. However, as the digital age and the advent of the internet have allowed information to flow freer than ever, corporate media has been widely revealed to be almost, if not just as bad, as state propaganda networks. Media filters itself through the interests of those who control it. According to the “Propaganda Model” first posited in Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, we can observe five types of filters through which we can view the stories in the news media.
I: The Ownership of Media: Making Sure the Story Benefits the People in Charge of the Publication
In 2012, 90% of all media in America was controlled by only six corporations: Comcast, News Corporation, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS. Since then, Viacom and CBS have merged, and News Corp. has split into two separate corporate spinoffs. One of these spinoffs, 21st Century Fox, has since been dissolved into Disney and the new Fox Corporation. News Corp., 21st Century Fox, and the Fox Corporation are all owned by Rupert Murdoch. Each company filters not only the news they choose to present but also their owned media in general to suit their own interests. Nearly all the media we consume has been filtered through one of these corporations. This consolidation essentially creates an oligarchy of increasingly powerful CEOs who can bend the public to their will through their vast reaching media empires.
II: Advertising: Making Sure the Story Will Be Attractive to Advertisers and Net More Money for the Corporation in Charge of the Medium
Mass media works in a cyclical nature when it comes to profits and advertising. Advertisers are looking for an audience to which they can sell their products. Media outlets are looking for money from advertisers. Stories are created, skewed, sensationalized, and presented to maximize audience interaction and therefore profit. The more audience members they can get, and the more ads they can fit in, the more money they can make.
III: Sourcing: Mass Media, Advertisers, and the Ruling Class
Mass media, advertisers, and the ruling class greatly benefit from each other, and this mutual benefit must be sustained by a constant flow of news, regardless of the reliability of it, or even the truth of it. This filter can best be seen with sensationalism. As has been established, the goal of mass media is not to present truth but to make money. The more eye-catching the story, the more people will want to consume it, the more money the owners will make. If a corporation can reliably provide a constant stream of sensational news stories, then they will keep people coming back again and again, netting a steady profit for itself, advertisers, and the ruling class.
If a person refuses to comply and serve the interests of the ruling class, then the mass media will turn against them and start throwing flak their way. Let’s take Citizen Kane, a film from 1941, as an example. William Randolph Hearst, the largest media mogul at the time, led a massive campaign to make the film virtually unseeable. He had journalists attack and lie about the director, Orson Welles, he banned every news outlet under his wing from advertising or even mentioning the film, and he made sure that the vast majority of theaters did not air it, for fear that they too might receive flak from his massive news conglomerate.
The best way to keep people from questioning the news they consume is to use a boogeyman to scare them. For example, historically, communism and terrorism have both served as distractions from investigations of the media itself. Fear operates similarly to how authoritarian regimes’ propaganda works. The only difference is that these massive corporations are only in indirect control, rather than the direct control of an authoritarian regime.
To summarize, it is through these filters that the ruling class subverts democracy and controls the general populace. Big businesses serve their own interests by manufacturing the peoples’ consent to be governed and avoiding the endangerment of their power an educated voting populace would bring. An obedient population can be manipulated at the will of the oligarchs. True democracy is the greatest threat to big businesses’ grasp on our country.
Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2008). Manufacturing consent. London, England: Random House.
The content of this article, as with every article posted on The Exchanged, does not represent the views of the staff of The Exchanged nor the National Cathedral School, St. Albans School, Protestant Episcopal Foundation, or any employee thereof. Opinions written are those of the writer and the writer alone.