I have a love-hate relationship with social media.
Somewhere in between the time I got my own computer in middle school and the time I got an Ethernet cable in my room, I started my life with social media.
Back then social media was so innocent and sweet. Not everyone had a Facebook and Twitter. Not everyone was out to self-promote themselves. Just being able to interact with your friends across town and across the world was so fascinating, and a majority of the world jumped aboard the train.
Fast forward to 2014 where everyone has at least some online presence. Whether you have a folder on your iPhone with eight different social apps or you are a grandma sharing recipes with friends on Facebook, everyone is involved.
This can be viewed as a good thing because people can connect where they most likely wouldn’t if it wasn’t for social media and the Internet.
On the other hand, this gives a public forum for all voices. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for freedom of speech, but this can be very destructive for free thought thinking where everyone has a voice and can easily share anything they see in just a few clicks.
Regarding that, in the past month when I logged on to Facebook in the mornings I frequently saw posts and links being shared saying Tennessee Tech and President Oldham were products of the liberal media and were attempting to “indoctrinate” all freshmen students into the Muslim Brotherhood.
Wait, what? When I first saw the headline being shared around, my jaw literally dropped and my faith in society dropped a little more. Not because I believed a lick of what the article was saying, but because people were believing this was actually the truth.
Okay, so what are they talking about here?
For the past three years, the University has had a common book that all freshmen read to learn a common lesson to help them in their future. In the past, the books have been stories of overcoming great odds to eventually reach success in life.
This year’s book is no different, except that it is causing a backlash against the school for choosing a book dealing with the Muslim faith.
“Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation,” by Eboo Patel is an autobiography of how Patel grew up in America as a member of the Islamic faith and his struggles with being persecuted because of his differences.
Doesn’t sound too dangerous, does it? Well once news broke that this book was chosen for the common book, websites such as Dailyrollcall and the website for former Saturday Night Live cast member, Victoria Jackson (for some reason) have written some very in-depth blog posts saying how having students read this book is the same as high-fiving the terrorists.
Dailyrollcall defines the purpose of their website as to “inform the public of the indoctrination and infiltration of various Islamist organizations throughout the country, and in particular the state of Tennessee.” However, what these sites are truly doing is stirring up an Internet storm of fear and hatred among the uninformed and are leading to more social intolerance.
What happens is people will see a link to the website shared by one of their friends online, and then pass it on and on without doing any research on the topic first. This happens all the time with simple little stories going around about how doctors say not to eat peanut butter because it causes cancer. This article circulates and then the next week there is a story saying peanut butter is great again and it is a cure-all. These articles circulate around, but people do read them.
In this case, though, we can see directly how an interest group can have an effect on a reader that won’t go out and do their own research or question what they read.
An anonymous commenter on the Dailyrollcall website said the following comment: “Phillip Oldham is another example of elitist liberal scum! I feel sorry for his children!!!”
Wow. Are you serious? The people writing these pieces and comments are blindly making mountains out of craters in an attempt to wind up more boxed hate against a group they believe are the keys to destroying our country.
They want to make it seem that the University and President Oldham are forcing radical liberal ideas on the students, when the truth is the University is simply trying to show students that diversity is a good thing, but a tough thing we all face. If anything, this entire backlash is only strengthening Patel's point that he is being attacked just for his beliefs and that our country is not as accepting as it could be.
I have not read the Eboo Patel book yet, that is now optional for freshmen to read, but neither have the authors of the blog sites that are spreading this hate. I can, however, promise you that if you open its pages, the terrorists won't automatically win. The book is attempting to profile how we as a society should be tolerant in this very diverse world we live in.
Heaven forbid there are people of other religions out there and heaven forbid they might just be here in Cookeville getting a college education. We are a state-funded school. We are not a private Christian school.
Another Dailyrollcall article suggests that simply because we have a Muslim student group on campus and they try to host events on campus, we are setting up a path for destruction.
They have every right to worship and organize clubs just as anyone else does.
Every religion has their radicals. Every group has their radicals. That doesn't mean just because one Muslim wrote a book he is automatically trying to brainwash you into thinking his way.
I highly suggest that you use your own mind to think about things, large scale. Question everything you read. Don’t take it at face value. Life is about learning from experiences even if they make you a little uneasy at first. Think Free.