By Samantha Tyler
With the plethora of electronic resources at our generation’s fingertips, we have instant access to all kinds of information and social media. But at what cost? Has the convenience of it all lowered our intellectual standards? Our liberal arts education is supposed to equip us with the tools necessary to enter the “real world,” including the ability to express ourselves in words. We have WAC requirements to make sure we get this kind of education, and yet it still appears that students today suffer from a lack of linguistic competency.
A huge contributing factor is the overwhelming presence of social media in our daily lives. Tools such as autocorrect and spell check, as well as new additions to our digital lexicon such as abbreviations and Internet slang, enable our generation to ignore proper spelling and grammar rules.
We also use social media as a social crutch. We hide behind the computer, choosing to voice our opinions on Facebook, Twitter and the like under the guise of a virtual space where the consequences do not seem as harsh as those of print media or a more physical environment.
Hiding behind Twitter handles, avatars and usernames that do not reveal one’s true identity allows for a less inhibited, but sometimes for a less socially acceptable conversation. It is easy to say something rude or inappropriate if it’s anonymous.
The recently created Facebook page “Girl Code: How to not be a Dumbass at Union College” is one such example. Providing Union men with inappropriate and grammatically incorrect tips on how to interact with the opposite sex, the authors hide behind the Community page. Additionally, this format allows for others to contribute—anonymously, of course. With “tips” ranging from personal hygiene to snarky, unhelpful put-downs, the insults and gross overgeneralizations that are posted on this page are embarrassing.
The split infinitive in the title notwithstanding, this Facebook page is both disappointing and insulting. We find this page offensive in two ways: First, it creates the illusion that females on this campus are less interested in grades and more interested in “extracurricular activities.” Second, by making this page anonymous, it creates a stereotype that these opinions reflect all women on campus.
The contributors objectify men in such a way that if the tables were turned, the comments would unquestionably be considered both sexist and degrading. Looking past the insults, men may interpret this page as an actual how-to guide, failing to see any sort of sarcasm or parody that the contributors have attempted to convey. They’re not sarcastic enough to make it sound like a parody; rather, it comes across as an attack and a set of demands.
What would prospective students think of the reputation of this school and its female population if they were to come across this public page? A fair assumption would be that the women of Union are nothing more than displeased sex-crazed misandrists. Obviously, this is an unfair and insensitive generalization. But as a public display of information on a website that our generation has become so dependent on, they would have no choice but to accept this stereotype as truth.
Social media has the ability to allow for new and creative interactions. But is it really worth it if these interactions contain harmful and slanderous rhetoric muddled by distracting errors that further undermine the ultimate message?
If you’re going to publicly insult half the student population, have the decency to put your name on it and run spell check first.