[LINK] Forget socal media, it's a letter in the Herald I prize
david.boxall at hunterlink.net.au
Mon Sep 23 11:25:10 AEST 2013
September 23, 2013
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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