Opinion: Civic duties — the disconnect between internet and reality

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CU Boulder is known for its environmentally conscious and socially responsible student body. Though the Internet provides yet another way to vocalize opinions, the 2016 election cycle showed us that a social media post is not enough.

I woke up on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, thinking that I was still stuck in some sort of dark nightmare. I was studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain when Donald Trump was elected president. As I went on with my day, I quickly gave up the idealistic view that it was just a bad dream.

Spanish professors joked about the results as my fellow American peers and I sat in class straight-faced, still in disbelief. My social media feeds were full with discontent towards Trump and outrage about the results. As I traveled in Europe during the remainder of my time abroad, Europeans laughed “Trump” under their breath as they looked at my American passport at airports or heard my friends and I speaking. It was the first time in my adult life that I felt truly embarrassed to be American.

I loved living in Spain, and the results of the election made it all the more difficult to return home to the United States. Back at CU, campus felt quieter about the upcoming inauguration than I expected, especially considering how active people were on social media in regards to the election of Trump.

The only time this semester that I experienced students actively discussing their opinions about the current political environment was when one of my professors came into class frustrated after watching a press conference held by Trump. Our entire class was immediately inclined to hear his discussion of the matter. As we listened, students engaged in communal outrage over the lack of reasoning in Trump’s statements and decisions.

“It’s frustrating because part of my job is to help prepare all of you for the future. But how do you prepare people for this?” our professor said in the midst of this classroom chaos.

So, how do we prepare for this? How do we deal with a political environment that many of us feel is not only embarrassing but also corrupt? It has become clear in the first three months of the new presidency that the next four years are not going to be easy. The 2016 election cycle and its results have sparked an interest in politics in our age demographic and, while social media is an excellent way to share and gain information, there is a gap between the opinions expressed online versus turning those opinions into tangible actions that create the change we want to see in our society.

Every day, I feel fortunate for my opportunity to expand ideas of my own and of my peers, but it’s our job as responsible citizens to go further than the internet and act on these ideas. I urge you to do something more, whether that be calling your representative and senator to express your opinions, volunteering your time for issues you’re passionate about or even just making a point to get out and vote for all elections in your area, not just the presidential ones. Change happens at the local level and we, as a progressive and educated community, have the opportunity to initiate change.

Maggie Crean is a CU Boulder student in a public relations class called Strategic Writing in PR and originally wrote this piece for that class.

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