September 21, 2017

SONG | Speak Up

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Open your mouth and talk. Say something. Say anything.

Say something about the stupidity of  bashing a student of color because he doesn’t fit in the fraternity stereotype. Say something about the hypocrisy of telling our immigrant students they cannot stay in the place they call home. Say something, anything.

Yet most of us choose not to.

Instead, we choose to use Facebook to tag people in memes about a salt-sprinkling guy and Kermit the Frog. We choose to send videos of how to make the perfect créme brulee and fluffy cheesecakes. We talk about the “bing-a-ling” clocktower jokes on Overheard at Cornell, but never about the things that aren’t heard.

Students are sitting right now at Willard Straight Hall. They are sitting, protesting in solidarity with the racial violence on campus, pausing their day to speak loudly with actions. Yet most of us are not there with them. We are on our phones, “too busy” with our lives, hurrying to go to class. Even if we are sitting in Willard Straight Hall, most of us will probably walk away today still thinking about ourselves, about what’s for dinner, about what our next Facebook status will be. Our minds are rapidly somewhere else.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not innocent either — I spend my time sifting through articles about horoscopes and those “the first word you find in this crossword will tell you your future” type of blurbs. Like any other student, I “have a life,” as some would say as their excuse. I can’t afford to drop everything and devote my life to nonprofits and charities and activism.

I’m not asking you to open your laptops right now and delete your Facebook. I’m not even asking you to share that video or that article or that photo. I am saying, don’t forget you have the power. Don’t forget you have the freedom to write whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want. Use it. Speak up. Don’t waste it.

If we don’t talk, nothing will be resolved. If we don’t put aside the stigma of appearing too “pushy” or “crazy” or “outgoing” for writing harsh words, we’ll never make that one controversial Facebook post we wanted to. If we don’t speak up, we won’t be heard. If we spend our time complaining about how “life is hard,” the change won’t come until we make it happen.

Social media is distracting, but it has a silver lining we often forget: Anyone can say anything they want at any time of any day. I could post about my 2 a.m. essay frustrations or my early morning coffee-spilled-on-my-shirt incident. I could say anything I want, whether it’s brash or harsh or cheesy or tragic, and everyone can hear it.

So my question is: You have this powerful forum, you have these thousands of friends following you on their phones at every minute of every day, you have the biggest voice any person has had in history, yet you choose to use your power to send memes?

Put time aside from those Reddit threads you follow, and say something yourself instead. Write about the violence on campus, about the wage gap between your professors, about the lack of resources in the humanities departments. I chose to be a writer because writers have all the freedom of the world: a blank paper and nothing stopping you, not a single obstacle to write down exactly the words you want. All you have to do is use it.


Kelly Song is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]. The Songbird Sings appears alternate Thursdays this semester.