The perils of trusting TikTok
I would love to say that the extended hiatus from the echo chamber that is my own voice being published semi-monthly has left me tamer. Or, that since exiting the whale of an industry that is hospitality back in the fall, I have found myself speaking with more optimism. A little over a month ago, I was promoted into a more behind-the-scenes role at the elementary school I work at. Fancy new title in hand, I spent my winter break decorating my new office and silently panicking that this was all a horrible joke at my expense. Now, nearly two months later, while more comfortable, I keep waiting for the walls to collapse in on me. But then again, if you do not keep up with the happenings of the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia, you might be unaware that the current debate is if we were gifted with an early pollen shower, or a “The Last of Us”-esque spore invasion (from China by the way) or if our own government has decided to wipe us out en masse.
Which is why I continue to wish that everything we used to communicate for Hagerstown Hopes was not conditional on keeping Facebook. Because just as we continue to debate within our government to what extent social media has created the societal and national issues that plague us with misgivings and an inability to trust or see the humanity in our neighbor, I fight the urge to chuck my phone out of the nearest window at least a dozen times a week. The Menu and Everything, Everywhere, All at Once are the last two movies my wife and I have watched together.Our work experience with the public and our growing cynicism spawned by global catastrophe and panic, we find ourselves quoting these movies frequently. I often think of the scene in the latter where Evelyn and Joy / Jobu are transported to the reality where life never happened on earth, leaving them both as rocks staring at an expansive, empty, yet beautiful horizon. Or in The Menu, where Tyler’s digital consumption of hours upon hours of content with an eye to becoming a culinary “insider” leads only to his creating a disastrous plate of inedible garbage when given the chance to demonstrate what he has mastered. And while both scenes are rightfully written and performed to be hilarious, their undertone feels more sad than snarky.
We are three years removed from the onset of the pandemic, and while I am grateful we can laugh when we remember lysoling our Amazon packages before bringing them inside, I cannot help but lament at how we have not learned anything about the ramifications of the instant gratification cycle that is social media. That we have mistaken likes and the ability to comment on anything as a modern-day symposium, when it more represents being at a house party after people have started leaving for the night, and everyone remaining is relegated to being a philosopher on subjects they know nothing about while they lose count of their drinks and begin thinking about which late night food establishment they will be drunkenly visiting in the waxing hours of the morning. The ability to speak on a subject, the ability to share opinions, does not beget a mastery of understanding. I can comment right now on CERN’s Facebook, and contrary to contemporary understanding, I would not understand how particle physics works any more than I can sail from my landlocked home to the Chesapeake Bay.
We are passing on that trait to our children. Our children, growing up in a world that is entirely digital with knowledge is at their literal fingertips, are trusting TikTok over experts. They are learning to believe the loudest voice in the room, which is why there are so many of them angrily complaining that Andrew Tate is being framed, and not being held accountable for attempting to skirt international laws on sex trafficking, and acting like the loudest brother at the fraternity every freshman girl is warned to steer clear of. And for that alone, we need to give pause. Like many other aspects of our society, we need to leave willful ignorance behind us. Just like The Sun sign at Camden Yards, it is time to move on. t
Asher Kennedy is a writer, activist, transman, and cisnerd living an hour outside of Washington in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. An alumnus of Shepherd University where he honed both his writing and musical skills, he is the current VP of Hagerstown Hopes. Through his work with Hagerstown Hopes, he works alongside Trans Healthcare MD to bridge the gap in medical knowledge and coverage for the trans and non-binary communities throughout Maryland. He has been featured on RoleReboot (Rolereboot.org) and is an avid speaker for local college and community panels. He works as a Title I SFL at a Western Maryland Elementary School and can be found re-watching the same six episodes of “The Simpsons” in his spare time.
- Asher Kennedy is a writer, activist, transman and cisnerd living an hour outside of Washington in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. An alumnus of Shepherd University where honed both his writing and musical skills, he is the current treasurer of Hagerstown Hopes, serving as a member of its Board of Directors. He is also the co-facilitator of both the Trans and Spouse groups. Through his work with Hagerstown Hopes, he works alongside Trans Healthcare MD to bridge the gap for medical knowledge and coverage for the trans and non-binary communities throughout Maryland. He has been featured on RoleReboot (rolereboot.org) and is an avid speaker for local college and community panels. He is on Twitter @ItsAsherK, and can be found re-watching the same six episodes of The Office in his spare time.