ONONYE | A Year Later, The Most Relatable Quarantine Moments

I am writing this column on March 13, 2021, which marks the one year anniversary since President Martha Pollack’s infamous email. The content of that email sent us home for the remainder of the Spring 2020 semester and was my first real introduction to the severity of the pandemic. After her email was sent out around 1:30 p.m. on March 13, 2020, I packed up my life in Ithaca and got on a flight to Southern California less than 17 hours later. Looking back, I had no idea what we were in for. I can shamefully admit that I was even a bit excited for an extended spring break.

NGUYEN | Instagram Removing Likes Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

I initially downloaded Instagram on my hefty anchor of a first-generation iPad. I remember the beginnings of the social platform well: its tan camera logo adorned with a rainbow stripe, its unflattering in-app photo filter options, its young userbase experimenting with this novel concept of “social media” for the first time. But since its introduction to the world in Oct. 2010, Instagram has been through a lot of changes, from countless user interface upheavals to a notorious $1 billion acquisition by Facebook. Nevertheless, Instagram has thrived in its popularity among youths — and as a result, it’s strengthened its hold on youth culture.

YANDAVA | Pay Attention, Be Astonished

While people worldwide were mourning Mary Oliver’s death, I was at home celebrating my 20th birthday. I saw the news scrolling through Tumblr, the platform that had first made me fall in love with her work at the age of 11. You’ve probably seen the lines “What is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?” on Facebook or Twitter or staring down at you accusingly from your middle school English teacher’s classroom wall. However, although Oliver’s work regularly appears on sites like Pinterest, it doesn’t quite translate to social media in the same, trite way as you might think at first glance. Last semester, I wrote a column criticizing Instapoets like Rupi Kaur for sacrificing depth and poetic language for accessibility in order to gain Internet stardom.

PINERO | Instagram’s Commodification of the Self

Raise your hand if you used social media today. If you’ve posted in the past month. If any part of that post — photo, editing, caption, geotag — was vetted by someone else before publication. Wave it around if you’ve ever done something or gone somewhere specifically “for the ’gram.”

It’s true that this behavior has become normalized, and that I myself participate. Neither negates the fact that it’s totally bananas.

YANG | Thoughts from the Subway

I worked in a research lab at a university in my hometown this past summer and, for the first time in my life, experienced what it’s like to have a long commute — an hour and a half each way standing in a hot, humid, insanely crowded subway car. Most of my fellow commuters spent these long and miserable daily trips on their phones, either scrolling through Weibo (think Twitter) feeds, watching viral videos, playing online games, binging the newest hit TV series or reading trending articles on Wechat (a Chinese amalgamation of Facebook and Instagram). Hundreds of commuters with headphones on staring down at their smartphone screens was quite a sight be behold but also incredibly frustrating, especially when I had to transfer lines at one of the busiest stations downtown, and had to follow a massive crowd of people up flights of stairs to another platform, a process slowed down significantly by those who were too absorbed in their phones to even walk properly. Despite my frustration, and because social learning is a natural thing that we all do, a few days into this commuter life, I also started killing time by spending it solely on my phone, going through my Weibo feed more times than necessary, replying to comments, reading Wechat articles that I normally wouldn’t care for and, when all that was still not enough, busted out my VPN to go through Instagram and Twitter. Yet, as you may have guessed by now, aggressively working my way through every social media platform every morning and evening did not make me feel “more connected” to friends and family, all the articles I read did not make me significantly more knowledgeable in certain areas or enlighten me on social or political issues, nor did the viral funny videos make me happier.