“We tell ourselves stories in order to live...We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the "ideas" with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.” - Joan Didion
“Hive” mentality is a popular concept among young adults that emphasizes collective thought and intelligence. In the past, this concept has been limited to mere political debate in classroom settings or water-cooler office banter, but today it is a constant influx that seeps through our cell phones by way of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
For my generation especially, the internet capitalizes on collective opinions to create a communal feeling among users. Things like ‘cancel culture’ and ‘stan accounts’ attract millions of users’ attention because of controversy and debate. Arguably, this sucks users into sections, where they feel they must adopt every aspect of that group, even if it does not represent their core belief. To an extent, this communal feeling can be a good thing, but what happens when it consumes that culture?Instead of being a section of empowerment and liberation, it can become a group that fights for a cause to any extent. The dangers of subjectivity are just the same as the dangers of objectivity - they inhibit a blindness that can tear at the seams of change and progression. Destruction of group relations through hive mentalities makes the extremities of each group flourish and diminishes any type of bipartisanship with other groups.
Social media inhibits both the positive and the negative of this culture. It can strengthen community ties, empower groups with self confidence and daily reminders of self love, but it can also force us into a box; one that is steel-cut and seemingly impenetrable. We must be aware of media and technology’s impression on us, its divisiveness, it’s pointing fingers, it’s collective conscious. To combat this, we must diminish the dark side of technological engagement through conversation.
Gender, specifically, divides and conquers on the basis of identification. Personally, I have seen firsthand how hive mentalities impact women’s empathy and empowerment. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook all provide informational platforms where women can come together and share their stories.
Most recently, the #MeToo movement jump started a community of sexual assault survivors via social media encouraging other women to come forward. Because of the hard history of our gender in our world, we, as women, were ready to stand behind these issues.
But, what about empowerment from other groups? The bigger issue here is that we understand these issues as women who experience them firsthand, but where do we begin to help other genders understand women’s struggle?
To study this a little closer, I wanted to see what social issues members of my immediate community are directly impacted by. But adversely, I wanted to study whether each subject still felt affected or bothered by issues that they don’t necessarily experience themselves.
I sent out a poll to my Facebook and Twitter community, along with singling out some candidates to ensure a diverse pool of genders among respondents. The first nine questions of survey were built in a specific way to ensure that all candidates responses were tailored to their personal experiences. The tenth and final question asked respondents what social issues they feel need reform, despite their experience of them.
Interestingly enough, climate change and poverty were the number one issues that eighty-five percent of respondents felt need reform, even if not readily experienced. The current state of our climate and the existence of climate-change deniers pushed me to believe climate would be on the lower half of the spectrum. Poverty, though, was an issue I was expecting to be highly noted among respondents and did not shake my attitude.
Women’s issues averaged in the mid-low range of the percentile, with the highest statistic being reproductive health at seventy percent. Issues like gender equality, women’s access to education, maternal health, and women’s employment opportunities were among the lower statistics reported from respondents. These issues are more readily experienced among women and cannot be felt by a society as a whole unless attention is brought to them.
The heightened level of mass shootings throughout our country sparked gun control impact to forty-five percent, nearly half of all forty respondents. The existence of student loan debt reported about 32.5 percent whereas more personal issues like islamophobia and same-sex rights reported a 2.5 percent impact.
Even when islamophobia and same-sex rights reported smaller personal impacts, they still generated a bigger call to action than personal women’s issues. The importance here is not that issues are not readily experienced, it is in how women are communicating and opening up to other groups.
Our struggle and pain is valid and should be mobilized by other groups. We must build strong ties with other diverse groups to help take down the one thing holding all of us back-- apathy. We need to be aware of our struggle, but we need others to be aware of it as well. By opening up ourselves and using social media for empowerment and self confidence, we might be able to pull women’s issues to the forefront of the social conversation.
We must remember that just because we are a part of a group does not mean we aren’t all scared of the same things. That we feel the same impending doom of the collapsing environment, the hardship in impoverished neighborhoods and underprivileged citizens. We have to change the current social media atmosphere to not only be inclusive, but also be a tool to connect, rather than divide. We must promote listening to others with the intent to understand, not the intent to respond. We must understand our identity, and use it to teach others about our struggles.