Last week, a group of students, myself included, organized the Maize Out March to demonstrate to the University’s administration that students sincerely want an on-campus graduation. In a sense, the effort was successful – graduation is now going to be held on campus. But on top of that, the march had a secondary goal: To prove that our generation of student activism is not relegated to just Internet crusades, but can translate sentiment into real-life demonstrations.
Leading up to the march, the event’s Facebook page listed 230 confirmed attendees, with about 350 more saying they would “maybe” attend. But in reality, 20 people showed up for the march. I would like to blame poor organization, or the fact that the Daily ran a front-page story on the same day announcing that graduation would be held on campus for the march’s poor attendance. However, that’s probably not the case.
Interactive social networking makes self-expression easy, to the point that the ease itself is its flaw. In the case of the graduation debate, a student may feel disappointed about having to graduate off-campus but simultaneously realize that an off-campus commencement could be the most practical solution. At the same time, this student may receive e-mails from peers begging for other students to send e-mails to administrators and demonstrate how angry students feel. Because sending an e-mail or clicking “attend” on a Facebook event is effortless, it’s worth the student’s time to protest from the comfort of the computer. If he or she weighs the option of voicing discontent at the expense of missing class to stand outside, the student may decide that expressing disappointment over graduation is not worth risking a participation grade.
This is exactly what plagues Facebook communication. Can sending an e-mail or joining a Facebook group equal the sincerity of using valuable time to participate in a demonstration? Probably not. But consider it in more personal terms. How does writing “happy birthday” on a friend’s Facebook wall, for example, compare to a customary phone call?
Although Internet organization might be the grassroots forum of the future, the behavior of the Facebook generation has not caught up with our pre-Internet expectations of human behavior. The poor expression of student dissent against commencement is a perfect of example of this disconnect. For this to change, we must put our money where our mouse is.
Mike Eber is an LSA senior and a member of the Daily’s editorial board. He was one of the chief organizers of the Maize Out March.