by Maxine M., age 17
“The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.” Though a seemingly simple sentiment, many debate what Marcus Aurelius truly meant by it. The first intuitive step could be to interpret this metaphysically—the claim assumes a link between the mind and the soul, the rational and the irrational. What we feel becomes how we think, our beliefs shaded by the hues of the actions and reactions that inform them. Yet in a world of fake news and misunderstanding, this phrase becomes almost like an omen: If we continue to allow conflict to flood our discourse, we run the risk of raising a generation of semantic blindness, where manipulation is normalised and falsehoods become dogma. But what, pray tell, has brought on the winter of this bad content?
In the past decade alone, my country, the Philippines, has seen the extrajudicial deaths of dozens of journalists—and these are only the numbers being reported. Yet several of these killings are justified as civil mechanisms against an opportunistic, overzealous press. It would be an understatement to say that, as an aspiring journalist, the integrities of my ideas now hang on a loose thread. This completely contradicts what the press stands for. Stories are meant to bridge divides between communities that are otherwise stratified: the state and the citizen, the corporation and its workers, the master and the servant.
Encouraging the youth to act is an imperative in the fight against media manipulation. This can be done through a variety of ways: On my end, I have co-founded Modern Divergence, a youth coalition working to reinvigorate mental healthcare systems to fit twenty-first-century narratives and combating the stigmas against neurodivergent teens. Through podcast conferences and psychological research, we promote safe, anonymous, and vulnerable communities. Oftentimes, media outlets inadvertently lose some truths in neglecting the populations on the margins—the ones who lack a voice. But while the internet is a platform apt-used for discussion, it has also become a cesspool of fear and hatred. In reclaiming the internet as a safe space for expression, discovery, and growth, we reclaim our ability to learn from it.
That said, these alternatives should be approached with nuance. We must frame communication modalities around diplomacy, not appeasement. Today’s political climate requires conformity to the idea that speed is necessary for progress. In turn, there is an over-valorization of immediate agreement, and depth is never fully realised. The internet truly thrives when social platforms allow people to break free from such mentalities and talk amongst themselves without pressure of homogeneity. Responsibility is best fostered in youth that are taught etiquette from a young age. When the internet becomes a forum, words are carefully constructed, contrasting with the impromptu dialogues of everyday speech. The everyday is defamiliarized and viewed through the scope of theory, yet simultaneously inspired by personal experience. After all, connection is most obstructed by a misrepresentation of ideas, not disagreement with them.
The social implications of an institutional media reform are immense. A remodelled media system allows us to reimagine how societies are organised on earth, striding towards a future defined less by instant fulfilment than by connectivity and communicative discourse. The power of words is constantly making itself known to me. Our thoughts must extend towards more multifaceted conceptions of what the world’s best thinkers have to offer. In educating ourselves this way, we prevent sensationalism from warping our realities.
I believe in the power of free and diverse information in connecting individuals from around the globe, uniting us in embracing a continuum, not a vacuum, of identities. Mankind must adopt a new maxim: that connections are key to countering forces of division in both the press and our daily lives, simultaneously orchestrating unity for the collective and cultivating personal growth for the individual. When we maintain thoughtful grasps on the subtleties that underlie our humanity, ensuring that our press publications reflect the liberties, eternities, and fraternities that have coloured society’s voices, we allow the world to meet the change it has been waiting for.