2 v The Newtonite, Newton North
Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019
Engage with social media as ‘conscientious users’ In the senior class, roughly 500 out of the 550 students in the class belong to the class Facebook group. They share relevant updates, announcements, and, occasionally, offbeat memes. Facebook is the only common platform for student activities. Leaders make groups for their clubs and sports teams, share events, and use it as a form of common communication. Some clubs, like this publication, even require that their members create Facebook accounts so that they can be easily reached.
editorial Anyone who wants to be involved in student life has little choice but to open a Facebook account. With this account, however, unsuspecting users find themselves subscribed to Facebook’s scandalous behavior. This fall, The New York Times exposed the fact that Facebook’s public relations firm, Definers, launched a campaign to discredit critics of the company by linking them with billionaire George Soros. According to The Guardian, Soros’ support for liberal causes has made him “a target of the right, the fringes of which have recast Soros as a modern day embodiment of the classic anti-Semitic trope of a secretive Jewish cabal pulling the strings on world affairs.” Facebook’s head of communications, Elliot Schrage, said that the firm’s choice to target Soros was “completely legitimate,” according to Bloomberg Insider. This event is only the most recent in the long line of Facebook’s scandals since the 2016 election, where the company allowed Cambridge Analytica to analyze user data to create customized political advertisements and posts to appear on Facebook timelines. With the custom content, and other timeline settings the platform uses, Facebook has become a platform that encourages polarization in which each user’s feed affirms their pre-existing values. While any or all of these events could be enough to make users want to delete their Facebook accounts for good, little would come from this. One user or hundreds of users deleting their accounts
would barely make a dent in the 1.74 billion users the platform hosts. And, the Facebook-less student is left out of the loop. Facebook users at North can’t switch to another platform because sadly, one does not exist. Even if one did, no company is ever ethically perfect. Google’s sexual misconduct claims, iCloud’s frequent hacks, and the Common App’s accusations of antitrust violations doesn’t stop you from having to use them every day. In any case, adopting a new platform would not change the fundamental problem: there is no stopping a billion dollar company such as Facebook. It feels like we are powerless in this situation, but students should not write off their discontent with Facebook’s actions and use the platform blindly. Keep your profile, but learn how to become a conscientious user. Question why you aren’t seeing news of the government shutdown. Why do you keep watching those puppy videos? Ask yourself why you are always nodding in agreement with every article that pops up on Trump. Do you read beyond the headline before you share? Think about who is requesting to be your friend. Do you really have a thousand? Determine which aspects of Facebook are essential to you. Maybe your class Facebook group qualifies, but vacation photo albums do not. Cut out the unnecessary and use Facebook for what you want to, or have to, do. You have a choice in the matter even when it feels like you do not. You have a choice to push for limits to what companies like Facebook can analyze and do. You have a choice to write a letter to your congressman if you are politically minded. These are choices you can make to push back against Facebook’s increasing power and control in your life. This need to check powerful companies goes beyond Facebook. When you’re forced to sign up for anything that requires a terms of agreement check mark—whether it be for an Instagram profile, Netflix account, or Amazon order—think of it as an agreement to not only follow the company’s rules, but to make sure that they follow yours.
The Newtonite The Newtonite, founded in 1922, is the news source of Newton North High School, 457 Walnut St., Newtonville, Mass. 02460. Editors in chief — Samantha Fredberg and Sophia Zhou Managing editors — Will Kharfen, Laura Schmidt-Hong, Rose Skylstad Arts editors — Isabella Lecona, Carolyn McDonald, Amy Xue News editors — Jacques AbouRizk, Sophie Murthy, Yesha Thakkar, Helen Xiao Opinions editors — Skyler Bohnert, Zoe Goldstein, Cameron Kellstein Sports editors — Jacob Forbes, Nichol Weylman-Farwell
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Letters The Newtonite serves as a designated forum for student expression. Readers are invited to submit guest articles and letters to the firstname.lastname@example.org. The Newtonite reserves the right to edit all letters, which must have the writer’s name and a student’s class and homeroom.
Senior Rene Miller sings with Jubilee at the annual Holiday Concert Thursday, Dec. 20 in the auditorium.
Appreciate libraries’ ability to cultivate intellectual curiosity Zoe Goldstein Although my first library card is lost somewhere in the recesses of my house, I can still remember the day I walked up to the desk in the children’s section at the Newton Free Library to ask for it. My grandmother was with me, since I was only a small first-grader who loved Junie B. Jones and Harry Potter. Holding my grandmother’s hand, I stood on my tiptoes to request a library card from the librarian. “Can you write your name?” asked the familiar librarian, who I saw whenever I came to the library and wandered around, flicking through graphic novels or chapter books and plumbing the depths of the picture books room for the coziest bean bag chair.
column I nodded gravely, as the librarian handed me a blue plastic card and a pen. Grasping the pen, I slowly wrote my name on the card, overflowing with pride. My library card. I soon misplaced that card, eventually got another one, lost that one too, and then finally received a third one that, to this day, my mom protects from me in her purse. But this story is not about my tendency to lose library cards—it’s about the enduring pride of belonging to one at all, plastic card or not. It’s a pride in libraries in general, places that to me are a bastions of knowledge, equality, and the joy of reading. Yet in an age of lightning-fast screens equipped with Google, social media, and Wikipedia, the importance of libraries is sometimes underappreciated. Libraries are not showy or arrogant divas; they are humble public servants who quietly offer public access to vast swaths of information. They are not about consumption, spending, or instant gratification; their trademark is silence, searching, and connection to the perfect book. So it is perfectly understandable to sometimes forget that libraries even exist, or to just buy an e-book, or to read news on social media. But libraries are important because of that: they offer an opportunity to slow down, search, and connect in a world racing forward at the speed of light. First and foremost, in the age of the internet, libraries are a place for equal access to information. There is no fee to enter, so anyone has the
ability to locate a nearby branch and browse its selections. While some people may not have internet access, technology, or even books at home, the library offers all three while requiring nothing in return. If a student without a computer at home needs to research, type up, and print an essay, the library has their back. Libraries aren’t a perfect solution to the technological disparity, but they can help ease it; their service is essential to supplying everyone who has a well-funded nearby library with the tools they need to find what they’re looking for. As such, libraries help create equality through access to information in a world that is often skewed towards the wealthy, who can afford an assortment of electronic gadgets. For those of us who have internet access at home, which makes research relatively quick and easy, we can lose some of the satisfaction when it comes to the process of searching. At the library, it can be a journey up and down floors, through stacks, and up ladders to find the perfect source; in addition to that, it’s a journey through pages of material that aren’t important until you find the one piece that is. The process is humbling and calming, no matter how frustrating it can be. This search reminds us of all the books to read, knowledge to unearth, and the facts we may accidentally find while searching that may not be what we wanted but may spark a new idea in our heads. Despite the promise of connection available on the internet, scrolling through social media can be isolating. We are connecting with people across the globe, yes, but we are also sprawled on our beds in front of a screen, eyes glazing over. Libraries can combat this “connected” isolation with interpersonal connection and with a tactile connection to the information they provide. The purpose of going to the library is to find a book, but maybe you’ll see your neighbor there, awkwardly wave to your old history teacher grading papers at a desk hidden in the fiction section, or ask the librarian where to find a specific book, leading to a book recommendation or an invitation to a book group or just a moment of conversation. Furthermore, libraries create a real connection to books—the act of cradling a stack
of novels in my arms or sliding them under the scanner one by one reminds me how much I love to read. It takes me away from my aimless Googling and grounds me in paper and dust jacket. Libraries are nothing if not an antidote to aimlessness and internet-induced stupor. You’re forced to confront the outside world while also being able to curl up in a fantastical one. They’re a reminder of the slow process, of information equality, and of reading, all things that are often overlooked. Moreover, when I enter the library, whether it be the LLC or a small branch library, I am sometimes overcome with reminders of the awe I felt as a young child, staring up at the endless shelves of books that were miles beyond my first grade phonics and vocabulary lessons, but nevertheless books I might one day be able to read. The hushed environment of the library and the plastic card nestled in my palm constantly reassure me of the incredible fact that libraries exist— what is more noble than a public institution taxpayers vote to provide the community with, an organization built upon giving out information for free to anyone willing and supplying people with a safe space to run away to the world of books? Nothing else I can think of. We as students at North can tap into these benefits at the LLC. Behind the sometimes tense relationships with librarians and seemingly arbitrary rules, the LLC helps students succeed through its collection of books, internet and technology access, and availability as a quiet place to do work. We should take advantage of this library while we can, and strive, because of all the reasons above, to continue the tradition of libraries on into the future and keep libraries alive. This assertion does not negate the joy of finding the perfect essay source on Questia, or how vital it is to adapt to and make use of the internet. Instead, we should keep in mind the importance of libraries as an escape and a counterbalance, a reminder of our roots, an equalizer, and as a propagator of awe. And finally, as a place to read in silence, uninterrupted, with only the sound of pages turning and the librarian shushing people who are talking too loud.