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The Problem with Communication

May 16, 2010 at 3:31 pm
By Sophie Bushwick

I was going to write about how there's too much to write about.  Well, not to much to write about, but too many places to write it.  I mean, if we want to discuss something serious, there's the Carletonian or one of the magazines, for random silliness we've got the Carl and the CLAP, and if we want to rant or just be opinionated, any of the above will do, depending on the amount of dirty language we want to throw around.  Then we have the DailyKnight, the newest addition to Carleton's many publications.

When I first heard about it, my first thought was "Really?  We have so many options when it comes to self-expression--do we need yet another forum to blast our opinions?"  After all, most of our "self-expression" ends up turning into complaints.  Complaints about college policies, about annoying habits, or even tirades against specific people who won't stop whistling or who didn't pay us back on time or who wronged us in some other way.  Life is never perfect, but it makes us feel better to be able to point out just what's wrong with it.  The problem is, complaining doesn't change things.  We're all too willing to offer criticism, but it's rarely constructive, and frequently serves solely to make us feel good about ourselves.

So, hypocritically, my solution to this problem was to complain.  I was ranting to a friend about our surplus of publication options, about to start in on something stupid I'd read, when she interrupted me.  "Are you kidding?  We don't have any publications that let us really communicate."  She pointed out the fact that none of our publications really provide a space for dialogue.  Sure, you could write a CLAP article in response to someone else, but those tend to instantly become pissing matches.  And without provoking conversation, an editorial rarely leads to the changes its writer wants.  When I read a complaint about noisy neighbors, I may agree that I get pissed off when my floor is too loud, but I'm unlikely to change my own habits to be quieter.  Nobody changes in response to someone else's complaints unless something personal is at stake, or their sympathy is provoked.  If we want to actually make changes, we should try to make issues personal for the intended audience, and the best way to do that is for them to answer back.  Opening up a dialogue allows us to improve ideas, connect with each other, and remind ourselves to treat our peers like fellow humans instead of yelling at them in print.

And that's why we need a blog!  Any comment section, if abused, can make the CLAP sound empathetic and thoughtful.  But if we actually want to make a difference, we need to not just blurt out our own ideas but to comment on others', to talk, to maintain a dialogue with other Carls.  And the DailyKnight isn't our only option!  The Carletonian is now online, and every article has an option for comments.  Respond to a Viewpoints piece, or even add some detail to a news article.  To deserve our reputation as a campus that cares about issues, and making life better, we need to do more than complain about our problems, even ones as minor as disrespectful neighbors.  In order to actually foment change, we need to communicate.

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    I totally agree. The quiet mutterings of students at Sayles after an inflammatory article is published deserve are too often unheard. My hope as an editor was to initiate some real open dialogue in a publication. Hooray web 2.0!

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