September 22, 2014

THOMAS | The Art of Constructive Criticism

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By DEON THOMAS

I’m writing today about an art that seemingly has been long lost. Whether I am clicking on a YouTube video, Facebook status or Cornell Daily Sun article I see comments ranging from insulting to flat out offensive. I never had a reason to care about comments, which, albeit insulting, were easy to ignore. Even when people’s comments leaped from The Daily Sun website to my Daily Sun email, it never quite bothered me. However, when I spotted an article about flyers being dropped on campus alleging that one of my fellow columnists is both a “racist and a rape-apologist,” I was quickly angered and knew that I had to address this issue.

Whether or not I agree with the sentiments of my peers here at Cornell, I refuse to dumb myself down and resort to name-calling. I know someone might think that throwing a few flyers on campus attacking a figure they deem offensive to be a form of activism; however, I will take the time now to tell you that it’s actually far from it. You have resorted to sending yourself back to elementary school where one-word insults were the end-all, be-all. You are not adding to the conversation; you are not creating effective change; you are, however, refusing to respect a fellow student, which, in fact, is exactly what you seem to be accusing him of doing in the first place!

One of my biggest issues with technology these days is that there are one to many mediums to throw your opinion online at whoever is willing to read it. Now, there are a plethora of opinions everywhere online that can probably all be summed up my two or three main points. My point being that Facebook may not be the best medium to create effective change in your community. If you actually want your opinion to be heard I urge you to join a media organization on campus, run for the S.A. or, if you don’t have the time, simply attend S.A. meetings and speak your mind on the events you truly care about.

There seems to be a strong sentiment that “all opinions are created equal,” whereas I would argue the opposite. Believe it or not, for every undeveloped argument or thought you have there is a well-researched and thought-provoking article online that says it better. Instead of posting a rudimentary argument on Facebook about how you think the government should take on ISIS, I plead with you to either do some research and post an original well-researched opinion on the subject. If you refuse to do such then simply post a link to a New York Times or Fox News article that has an opinion similar to yours.

I am not asking you to stop developing opinions or arguments on important topics. I am merely asking you to educate yourself before you speak your mind. More importantly, I am asking you to contain your rage long enough after reading an article to do your own research, make your own constructive argument and write your own thought-provoking response all before clicking the reply button online. However, even a rudimentary response online is better than resorting to name calling and painting a unfairly malicious portrait of another student. Put yourself in that student’s shoes and I assure you there is something you’ve said or written where you could find a picture of yourself on campus smiling next to the words racist or rape apologist, and when that happens remember it’s not me, it’s you.

Deon Thomas is a senior in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He may be reached at dthomas@cornellsun.com. It’s Not Me, It’s You appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.

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