Staff editorial: Facebook as a Discussion Platform

Over Spring Break, the Lawrence Admissions Office held a Facebook Live event with a panel of students and the Director of Admissions Ken Anselment to connect with prospective students and applicants. For 30 minutes, Anselment and the students answered questions posted live by prospective students in real time. During this event, many current students and alumni chimed in to help with some unanswered questions in the limited time frame of the live video, or to provide their perspectives. However, some comments have been unconstructive criticism of Lawrence; their passive-aggressive tone and lack of good intentions did not help to facilitate a productive and civilized discussion about Lawrence. This incident brings up an often debated issue: is Facebook an appropriate forum to voice dissents and to have a meaningful discussion that encompass and give fair weights all viewpoints?

As a social networking site, Facebook is ill-equipped as a platform to facilitate discussions and debates, especially ones that are polarizing, emotionally-charged or more complex than just black-and-white. Not only is the space unmediated, but there is also a sense of anonymity and disconnect while using it as a forum for debate. It’s easy to forget one is arguing with an actual person when on opposite sides of a screen. Additionally, tone and meaning can be misinterpreted, leading to further distress. This disconnect creates room for personal monologues and cyclical arguments wherein nothing can be solved. Arguing online is not productive.

If anything, rational person-to-person conversations should be encouraged. If one has a conversation face to face, less will be left up to one-sided assumption. By sitting in the same room, one has to acknowledge their challenger is another human being. Situations such as these are the only ones in which progress can be made. One-on-one conversations can help individuals to assess what they actually think and believe and what thoughts they have are solely reactionary. Reactionary thoughts typically are poorly thought out and might not reflect one’s true intentions. Even without a mediator present, progress can be made by simply taking away the safety of an internet presence.

While Facebook may not be the best outlet to express oneself, there are other places available on campus where open conversations can take place. CODA conversations are hosted every few weeks in Sankofa house and cultivate constructive discussion. Additionally, open political conversations often happen on campus. If everyone approaches these meetings and situations with open minds, more students can feel as if their voices are heard and hostility can be curbed.

If students feel as if they cannot speak up in front of a crowd or even to another student, The Lawrentian publishes Letters to the Editor as long as the point is structured and well-argued. The Op-Ed section of The Lawrentian is also open to all submissions. A deliberate and well-organized argument is more likely to be constructive and meaningful than making pointed comments on a social media site.

As adults, it’s time we take responsibility for what we say and work towards a respectful environment at Lawrence. Let’s leave Facebook for Frat Party invites and wishing happy birthdays.