University students are generally portrayed as overzealous social justice warriors, usually bordering on slightly annoying. Maybe it’s because of this stereotype, but I’ve always found myself trying to tone it down, trying not to be the one that won’t stop preaching feminism and environmental issues, or shoving politics down everyone’s throats. It’s got to be better to keep my mouth shut than be “that person,” the one that everyone rolls their eyes at every time they bring up whatever it is they’re currently crusading for — not because we don’t agree but because we already do agree.
But I recently learned that there is something worse than being “that person”: being the person that doesn’t care at all, and makes no effort at all to be informed.
I didn’t think that this person really existed in the university setting. I know that not everyone knows everything about every issue or has developed their own opinions, but part of attending university is learning, not only to learn skills to get a job, but to learn about issues facing our culture, our society.
But I was caught off guard when the issue of pipelines came up in one of my classes last week, to which one of my assigned group mates responded with “Umm, people actually still care about this?” and proceeded to disregard and even slightly belittle the opinions of group members that did, regardless of the stance they took.
It’s not that everyone has to care about pipelines, I know plenty of people that really don’t, but there’s a duty, a social responsibility, to at least read the occasional news article and stay informed on an issue that can nearly define the results of an entire election, an issue that people are not only advocating for but dedicating their lives to.
Apathy, especially among the university demographic, seems to have become something that we’re just used to. Protests, rallies, all the things that defined activism in the ‘60s and ‘70s are a thing of the past and advocacy today looks more like updating your location on Facebook to being in Standing Rock than actually heading to Standing Rock.
But at least the over one million people that took to social media knew that something was going on at Standing Rock, and while their efforts may not have had much of an impact, it at least spread awareness.
Staying informed is not only easier than ever, but it’s almost become completely impossible not to. Hearing the latest updates on nearly any current issue is no longer a matter of buying a newspaper, or even visiting CBC’s website on free wifi while standing in line at Starbucks, but simply opening Facebook and Snapchat and being bombarded with shares and news updates that you didn’t go the slightest bit out of your way to find.
While this accessibility to news can be argued to cause apathy, it also takes away any excuse to be uneducated about current issues — you no longer have to go out of your way be informed, you have to go out of your way to be uninformed.
It’s this form of apathy that is not only disappointing, but disconcerting. I understand that not everyone cares about pipelines, but you wouldn’t think those to be your educated peers, classmates that you hope are staying informed about their surroundings, mainly because it’s just one of those things that university teaches you to do. University fosters an environment that pushes you to care about things — really, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t care about something, be that getting a job you love, getting a job that’ll come with a comfortable salary, or simply educating yourself.
While I really hope to avoid the awkwardness of having my uninformed classmate read this and call me out on it, deep down I hope they do because it would mean that they read a newspaper.