Social media reflects misguided American values

Maggie Kelso, Writer

It was not so long ago that the world lost one of its most prominent human rights activists and leaders of the 20th century. Former South African president Nelson Mandela died in December of 2013 at the age of 95. He was largely known for his activism and leadership. Mandela spent 27 years in prison as a result of his commitment to social justice.

When a man with as powerful an influence as Mandela had on the world passes away, we have the responsibility to celebrate his accomplishments. The news of his passing was all over social media: Twitter buzzed with the news of his passing and Facebook was covered with obituaries and kind words about Mandela. From these implications, it would seem that many people knew and cared about Mandela.

Nevertheless, when renowned actor Paul Walker from “The Fast and the Furious” series died, it seemed nearly twice as many people tweeted about his death than about Mandela’s. What does this say about American culture? How is it that, at the time of Mandela’s death, there were people who did not know his name?

The problem is that Americans place too much value on other Americans. We turn on our TVs, check our news feeds, and whip out our phones, but we pay little attention to current events and the world around us. We read the articles about what Kim Kardashian named her baby or which celebrities have recently received a criminal charge. From the time we are young, we are often taught that it is the individual that is important, not the community. Americans value themselves and their lives, and more important issues around the world are often overlooked. This is the fundamental problem with our society: we are too self-obsessed. The louder individuals get the attention, not important events or acts of social justice.

For example, the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently conducted its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. World economic leaders met to discuss the world’s economy and where it is headed, among many other important issues. Hardly anyone even knew about the meeting, let alone watched it on TV. Why has such an important conference been overlooked by the American public and even the American media? In celebrity news, Justin Bieber was arrested in Miami. I could tell you the whole story of what happened to him because his arrest took up nearly all news broadcast time slots, newsfeed, and tweets. All this attention for a negative act just goes to show how much Americans value the behaviors of one individual, good or bad, over the events of the world.

This ignorance toward the rest of the world negates America’s greatness and individuality and melts the core of American ideals to molten pools. We are a melting pot of increasingly self-centered citizens who forget that it is not the famous movie stars and singers who decorate the streets of Hollywood who make a true difference in the world. It is men like Mandela, whose lives were dedicated to social justice and civil freedom that we should idolize, rather than placing our faith in superficial celebrities. If you ask me, above all else, we should look long and hard at what our society has become and the way it is represented by social and public media. Only once we realize that our country has transformed into a nation of self-centered, individualistic people can we change our flawed values and focus on what is truly important to the well-being of America and the rest of the world.

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