[LINK] Forget socal media, it's a letter in the Herald I prize

David Boxall david.boxall at hunterlink.net.au
Mon Sep 23 11:25:10 AEST 2013


September 23, 2013

Julia Rheinberger

I am 15 years old and I care passionately about Australia's moral 
obligations towards genuine refugees. To draw attention to this issue 
following former prime minister Kevin Rudd's deal with Papua New Guinea, 
I decided to write a letter to the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.

This might seem like a strange choice for a teenager today. Who of us 
reads the newspaper? Our digital lives have grown in significance that 
they now seem almost like our real lives, although we don't necessarily 
use our real names. On Tumblr we can create an identity and express 
ourselves however we see fit.

This anonymity allows for unhampered creative expression. However, the 
unlimited, unfiltered world of cyberspace is also a labyrinth. It is 
nearly impossible to find the metaphorical needle in the haystack; the 
pertinent argument, the valid perspective, the outstanding creative 
work. The reams of information become white noise.

I did not want my voice to be lost in this virtual cacophony. I wanted 
to stand by my opinion, and I wanted my words to be read by Australians, 
for whom the issues about which I cared so much held significance. Most 
importantly, I wanted it to be read by voters. Because I am 15, if I 
want to effect change, the only way is for me to affect the opinions of 
those who can, which means it is more important for my opinion to be 
heard by adults than my Facebook friends.

Newspapers are the lens through which adults view social and political 
issues. They allow democracy to function by giving voters access to 
information about government policies, and they broaden the horizons of 
their audience by exposing them to different points of view. By sending 
my opinion to a newspaper, I felt I was playing a part in this 
democratic process by influencing a wider and more relevant demographic 
than if I had used social media.

Teens use Facebook as a social forum, discussing people and social 
events rather than ideas and socio-political events. If I were to post a 
status about my opinion on Rudd's asylum seeker action, it would have 
been out of place and irrelevant.

When my letter was published, I know I found the audience I was seeking. 
I was congratulated by many adults including family members, teachers 
and friends of my parents. At my grandfather's birthday party I was 
introduced to one of his friends, who said she already knew me from the 
Herald, which was quite humbling.

Suddenly my ideas reached farther than my social circle. I felt larger 
than life, but I also felt small. I was now more and less than a teenage 
girl; I was a name on paper, appearing to readers as words on a page, 
more than a person but at the same time so much less. I wonder if I 
would have received as many congratulations if I were an adult writing 
to the Herald. Perhaps the value of an idea is determined by its origin 
as well as the idea itself. It worries me that the worth of my letter 
might be just due to its novelty.

Meanwhile, in my own social circle, my achievement went by practically 
unnoticed. This felt surreal as adults I barely knew seemed interested 
in what I had to say.

Being published in the Herald made me feel as if my ideas mattered. My 
voice was heard in a way that it never could have been if I had simply 
voiced my opinions on the internet.

Julia Rheinberger is a year 10 student.

David Boxall                    |  I have seen the past
                                 |  And it worked.
http://david.boxall.id.au       |               --TJ Hooker

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