Category Archives: Opinion

Social Media’s Unintended Effects

By Alibek Asanbaev
Vernon Hills, Ill.

IN MODERN society, almost everyone has a social media account, in large part because people have FOMO, or “fear of missing out.” This fear causes people to keep mindlessly checking social media apps like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook in order to stay informed about what their friends are doing. People also use these apps in order to interact with friends, family, and even strangers. But often, people use social media simply because they want to be entertained and pass time when they are bored.

But despite its important role in our lives in the 21st century, social media is detrimental to our lives overall. It negatively impacts our mental health, personal relationships, and happiness.

While many people say they enjoy social media, it tends to elicit many nega-tive feelings that are harmful to mental health. A study conducted by University of Pennsylvania psychologist Melissa G. Hunt found that greater usage of social media apps increases feelings of loneli-ness and depression. Conversely, “using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness.” Al-though social media apps are intended to help users feel more connected with each other, they actually cause users to feel isolated and unhappy. 

Humans are social creatures who have a natural need for real-world, face-to-face interactions in order to feel happy. Social media isn’t a replacement for that real connection. According to, a nonprofit mental health website, social interaction “requires in-person contact with others to trigger the hormones that alleviate stress and make you feel hap-pier, healthier, and more positive.” These hormones are not triggered by staring at a screen or talking through the phone.

It’s also important to realize that people tend to only post the best parts of their lives online. Everyone on social media wants to depict themselves as being attractive, rich, and happy. When other people see these kinds of posts, though, they often feel a sense of envy that they don’t live the dream life that they assume others are experiencing. Yet the very same people who try to portray themselves as having those enviable lives are likely experiencing anxiety and depression of their own. Social media causes everyone to feel bad about themselves when they assume that others are living a better life than them. Overall, social media is a giant public facade that masks private despair.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that people should quit using social media altogether. It is true that social media is a useful tool for spreading valuable information, and an easy way to interact with people. Learning about important news and becoming friends has never been easier thanks to social media, and apps can catalyze change by rallying many people together to fight for a cause they all believe in. Social media also enables people to share their opinions and perspectives, which is an integral part of democracy.

Social media has its positives but, for the most part, it is full of unrealistic, useless, time-wasting, and harmful qualities. Our culture thrives on staying informed and constantly seeking pleasure, but while social media is a powerful tool for gaining essential knowledge, it becomes futile, and even detrimental, when used exces-sively and for the wrong reasons.

America’s History of Erasing History

By Eunice Choi
Fresno, Calif.

Many often say, “The past is the past.” So why study history? Through history, we can learn how past societies have changed and evolved based on the blueprint of our actions and mis-takes. Understanding previous accounts of history is essential. But many in the United States seem to think that our students shouldn’t learn about America’s history with depth and breadth. 

In American schools, history is being left behind and erased. As schools increasingly pro-mote STEM disciplines and states lack in providing enough support for the pedagogy, many students are stifled from learning history. According to a study conducted by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2017, a mere 8 percent of high school seniors surveyed were able to pinpoint slavery as the principal motive of the Civil War.  Research from the SPLC further reveals that more than 90 percent of teachers are “comfortable” with teaching the history of slavery, and 40 percent of teachers believe that states do not provide sufficient support to this instruction. A whopping 58 percent of teachers find textbooks inadequate for teaching. 

Not only is our education system at fault in teaching the course, there is also a tendency to simplify and distort certain events and timelines of the past by “whitewashing” the material. In Texas,  a 2015 state-adopted textbook referred to enslaved people as “immigrant workers.” It was not until 2018 when the Texas State Board of Education revised the curriculum to finally highlight that slavery was the primary cause of the Civil War. Even though Texas did the right thing by revising their curriculum in 2018, it’s a case of two steps forward, one step back. In July, the Texas Senate passed a bill to remove requirements that schools teach specific writings from Martin Luther King, Jr., Susan B. Anthony, and Cesar Chavez. 

Of course, it’s not easy to learn about the oppression of marginalized communities in the classrooms. But these events are an imperative part of America’s history. Its continuation can have far-reaching consequences, too. We choose to continue to oppress minority communities with the perpetuation of historical myth-making. The only way we can learn and eventually move on from the past is if we accept the truth and reflect on our mistakes to foster a better society from these bygone days. And it starts with education.

Students are constantly told that the truth can set us free. Then why do countless in-structors, parents, and officials find it challenging to accept the truth? This educational malpractice isn’t history, it’s a false narrative. Students must understand how the present ties back to the history of the United States in order to become better citizens and scholars. Historical accuracy is needed, and this flawed mindset must be fixed now.

Blast Off, Bezos!

By Leslie Nevarez
Brownsville, Texas


ON APRIL 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin became the first human to ever travel into space. Eight years later, during the Richard Nixon presidency, Apollo 11 allowed Neil Armstrong to become the first person to land on the moon. In July 2021, two renowned billionaires—Richard Branson and Jeffrey Bezos—rode into the mere surface of space for a total of about 12 minutes combined. While an alarming number of Americans are losing their jobs and barely making ends meet, Branson and Bezos got the spot-light they needed to get richer.

On July 11, 2021—just eight days before Bezos’ trip—Branson, the founder of Virgin Galactic, became the first-ever to fly into space using a rocket he helped fund. Branson lifted off from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico along with two pilots and three crewmates and experienced around eight minutes of weightlessness. 

During the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, Bezos also went into space and experienced weightlessness for roughly 4 minutes. Bezos, along with three crew members, lifted off from West Texas on the Blue Origin flight, according to CBS News. 

In the ten days that have passed since the billionaires took field trips to space, I could not help but think that there was an even bigger message that rich people (like Branson and Bezos) wanted to send to the rest of the country and even the world. Is flying into space what power looks like to them? Is this a way for the rich to gloat? Or is this the continuation of the infamous Space Wars: Billionaire Edition? 

In 2020, the United States lost 20.6 million jobs in March alone, when COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Yet in the midst of it all, Bezos, former CEO of Amazon, had a revenue of $386 billion according to Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index, with a total net worth increase of $73 billion. Similarly, Branson had a net worth in-crease of $1.3 billion since July of 2020.

While millions of individuals had to adapt to survive a global pandemic without a stable income, the rich kept getting richer. While Branson’s trip to space cost him $841 million, Bezos spent around $5.5 billion to get the astronaut experience for 4 minutes. This kind of money could have been put to better use back on Earth, such as helping the world get vaccinated against COVID-19, giving financial assistance to those who lost a job during the peak of the pan-demic, or even helping fund education. But such generosity wasn’t shown by the people who could afford to give it. 

The takeaway is simple. The once-metaphorical phrase of “sky-rocketing” income has become literal for billionaires. Sadly, showcasing their wealth while millions of others struggle is the most integral aspect of this “mission.”

Is Social Media Doing More Harm Than Good?

By Julia Francisco
Los Angeles, Calif.

WE ALL know social media can be helpful, but is it possible that it is doing more harm than good? Posts and likes con-nect people by the minute around the globe through platforms like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. These platforms can bring business, awareness, connections, and even acceptance. Yet they can also cause manipulation, toxic-ity, and mental health problems.  

Social media users range across all ages: kids, teens, and adults. With unchecked content posted around the clock, it is no surprise that misinformation circulates widely across platforms, across the country and across the world. It may not seem like a big deal, but when impressionable audiences start to believe and share the information they come across on social media without fact-checking, our collective knowledge is tainted. 

Many times, misleading information centers public figures. When enough angry people have liked, commented, and shared the information, users collaborate to “cancel” the person. “Cancel culture,” as it’s called, shuns people from society and allows for them to be publicly “dragged” and harassed by the users on these platforms. It is seen as a form of justice, but is it really justice or just bullying?

Social media is also a performative space, where people are made to believe that they have to appear flawless in front of their audience. Many social media feeds include dance routines, selfies and makeup trends. These posts may seem harmless, but when users—especially young people—are constantly re-minded of what they don’t have, it can take a toll on their mental health. Many start to compare them-selves to celebrities and influencers. They wonder why their bodies aren’t shaped like an hourglass, or why their skin doesn’t look perfect. Others value themselves only by the number of followers and likes they’ve accumulated, and some deal with trolls and hateful comments. Numerous users do find a community of acceptance online, but many also find a world of toxicity. 

Although social media was de-signed to keep people connected, with all the lies, hate, envy, and dismay it produces, social media has actually brought disconnection to the world. We have to remind ourselves that social media is just a show, and that we are perfectly imperfect beings. I do not mean to advocate for the deletion of social media, but simply to encourage the occasional reprieve. Consider this a reminder to take breaks from the cyber world to protect yourself and your mental health. 

Stop Web Filtering in Schools

By Aryam Haile
Stone Mountain, Ga.

Grown-ups, envision this: You’re in high school. It’s 2020 and your school has gone virtual. You’re in a Zoom call for U.S. History, and your teacher assigns you to watch a short video on the Great Depression. They send the link in the chat. As soon as you press the link, a red message appears on your screen saying: “Web-site blocked.” In the digital age, many schools have given their students laptops and tablets for online school work. To keep their students safe from mature content, many schools have also implemented website filters on these devices. While shielding students from pornography is important, schools need more precise filters.

Many students have voiced their frustrations on the extensive web-blocking that has prevented them from accessing the information they need to complete as-signments. What good is providing these devices to students if they can’t use them to their full extent?

A vast number of schools use web blocking software that can’t differentiate be-tween inappropriate web-sites and normal content that has no business being blocked. Web filter software uses keywords to determine whether a website is inappropriate, and the simplistic overuse of key-words is doing more damage than good. Schools should lower the number of keywords they consider to be inappropriate. This will allow students to access important, non-harmful websites.

Some may argue that the blockage and filtering of websites are to keep students safe. While websites con-taining pornography should be blocked, schools need to be more careful in how they assess what content is considered mature for students. Giving students access to technology was supposed to increase learn-ing access; extensive web-filtering only acts as another barrier to students and their online education. 

Infographics: Do they have Info?

By: Ebony Riley and Skye-Ali Johnson

Voorhees, NJ and Washington, D.C.

Picture this: It’s a mid-summer day and you unlock your phone to open up Instagram because you’re wondering what’s going on. You come across a post with brightly colored, eye-catch-ing fonts that describe the most current tragic event. This, you realize, is the new trend. 

With the rise of info-graphics, students are left questioning how effective they are in making a  difference. In a recent interview with students from the Princeton Summer Journalism Program (PSJP), students vocalized their opinions on infographics and online activism. 

“You want to follow that up with an action,” says Emi Glass, a 17-year-old high school student from Day-ton, Ohio. Glass believes that, in some cases, online activism can be beneficial and inclusive. But there are steps beyond reposting information on your story that are required to effectu-ate meaningful change.

“OK, I posted this, but what does this actually do for this situation?” asks Huda Tombul, a 16-year-old high school student from New York. She adds that many people post infographics for the sake of posting them, and do not actually care about the information they spread. “Is this actually accurate information? Or did someone simply just write this and everyone went along with it?” Tombul asks. 

“I mean, who isn’t on their phone?” 21-year-old college student Abby Dot-terer admits. Social media is an undeniable facet of daily life. The more people use it to express their concerns or thoughts, the more they begin to question whether or not it is a reliable place to source information.

When asked whether or not we should trust Insta-gram infographics, many interviewees advised caution—there should be individual research done before sharing  information. 

“You need to fact-check them. I don’t think you should trust some random person who posted it,” Glass says. 

“Everyone has their voice. And anyone could say any-thing that could influence other people,” 17-year-old Nhi (Nikki) Huynh from Western Massachusetts says. 

It is evident that social media platforms have be-come a popular place for young individuals to speak their truths, and a place  to spread awareness about topics that interest them on the internet. Sometimes, though, the messages be-hind online activism be-come lost in translation. “Social media activism is al-most like talking to a brick wall,” Dotterer says. 

Do infographics really lack information? “I have seen some that I think are more focused on the visual aesthetic than the quality of the information,” Glass says.

Online activism has taken a turn, and it’s hard to tell whether it is for the better or worse. Are we stuck? Or are we progressing?

No matter how hard we try, it is hard to predict the direction of infograph-ics and digital activism. As Dotterer puts it, “two steps forward, one step backward.” 

Will we overcome this online activism standstill?

Miles Apart, Connected Forever


After five weeks of endless questions with guest speakers, chats about Olivia Rodrigo over Slack, and double-checking if your mic was muted on Zoom, the 2021 cohort of the Princeton Summer Journalism Program (PSJP) completed its second virtual summer. Asking questions by day, and laughing together by night, PSJP students not only broadened their knowledge of journalism, but also created life-long connections in a newfound, online family.

Using digital platforms had its inevitable challenges: internet connectivity issues, navigating time zones, and Zoom fatigue. Many students also juggled family commitments, jobs, internships, and summer classes. Throughout it all, PSJP students flourished, effectively balancing a multitude of tasks.

We were fearless when questioning politicians in virtual press conferences. Students asked hard-hitting questions on topics ranging from immigration to anti-racist education that stunned speakers. We engaged with Princeton professors through
interactive discussions and attended workshops that explored various forms of journalism, from covering food to conspiracy theories. No matter the unpredictable adventure that awaited every week, each Zoom call was a learning experience for both the speaker and student. After each session, students would leave with a new-found understanding of journalism.

As a collective, we learned that journalism is more than just writing, but also a desire to listen and learn. No matter our prior experience with journalism, we all gained an understanding of the power of journalism as a gateway to igniting change. We
were introduced to ideas like Critical Race Theory, drag queens, and the intersection of food and culture. Throughout it all, we learned how to be open-minded and bring creative perspectives into our writing.

Yet the most engaging aspect of the program was the community that kept 40 students across the United States eager to learn. Zoom chats would move a mile a minute, causing joy among students, staff, and guests. Whether it was hilarious remarks or positive affirmations from students, the love and laughs were felt despite the distance.
Between arranging Zoom calls outside of PSJP programming, or creating a petition for a deadline extension, we channeled our empowerment from the program to make our voices heard and create unforgettable memories. On behalf of all PSJP students this
summer, we thank the persistence of the staff and the enthusiasm of our guest speakers. Every lecture and workshop encouraged us to view the world differently with new perspectives. Moving forward, we will use the knowledge we gained from PSJP to not only reimagine the future of journalism, but also to excel in all aspects of life. Miles apart, connected forever.

How a 17-year-old from South Jersey fought for racial justice

blm4Lia Opperman

By Lia Opperman

Galloway, N.J.

A mid nationwide Black Lives Matter protests after the tragic death of George Floyd, 17-year-old youth activist Sunrose Rousnee of Galloway, New Jersey, decided to take matters into her own hands.

A rising senior at Absegami High School and president of her school’s drama club and Gay Straight Alliance, Sunrose planned a local protest that took place on June 26. The protest was held in Galloway’s neighboring town, Absecon, New Jersey, where she was joined by around 50 people from the community.

When asked why she decided to start her own protest, Sunrose explained that there was a protest in her hometown, Galloway, but many people who lived in nearby towns were upset that there wasn’t a protest where they resided—and weren’t stepping up to host their own. That inspired Sunrose to spend weeks planning a location, speeches, and safety pre- cautions for citizens in Absecon to have their voices heard and be properly represented in their community.

Sunrose also spent a lot of time deciding on a name for her protest, but ultimately settled on “All Black Lives Matter” in order to be inclusive of all Black lives, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.


Lia Opperman

The protesters marched, spoke, listened to speeches, knelt in a moment of silence for George Floyd, and sang in Absecon’s Heritage Park, all in an effort to honor Black people who have en- countered police brutality and to advocate for change.

Eventually, the group departed from quaint Heritage Park and marched to busy and bustling Route 30, taking their posters and voices with them for all to see and hear.

Sunrose hopes that the protests that have been occurring in Atlantic County, including her own, will provoke change in the community.

unnamed (1)

Lia Opperman

An immigrant’s story

Credit Maggie SalinasMaggie Salinas

By Maggie Salinas

Sunland Park, N.M.

My father, Carmelo Salinas, immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s after he couldn’t find work in Mexico. He was only 17, and he supported himself by picking pears in Southern California. We recently discussed how hard those early years in America were after he kept his experiences silent from everyone for years. Why did you find it necessary to immigrate for work?

“Mexico was corrupt and they didn’t want gente like me working. Everyone needed the money and was out to get you en Mexico. My dad used to be a bracero when he was young too, and he introduced my mom to American money.” What exactly did you work as?

“A lot of us usually worked in barracas de comunidad, and we would go up the mountains en Tehachapi [a city in California] to trim pear trees. Las barracas looked like prison cells. There [was] a two-in-one small bed, and we shared one toilet and a kitchen. Looking back, it was dangerous, but back then it was better than nothing.” Do you remember how much you earned?

“The owner would visit every quincena to pay us, 15 days. He would come up to you and go:

¿Cuantos arboles podaste, Carmelo?’

No pos’ que cien’

‘Bueno, son $150 por cien arboles’

He gave us about $150 per 100 trimmed trees every 15 days or a month algo así.” Did you face conflict with other workers?

“Sí, there were some old folk with us who didn’t want to go out and work with us because they had reumas, like arthritis, and they didn’t want to go out in the cold. Pero there were others who were just lazy. And they wanted us to split our earnings with them, or they would threaten to beat us. Some of us got into a fight with some of them. We didn’t want to pay them, and they tried stabbing me. I was able to take the knife away from him but your tío started punching him out of anger for threatening me. I remember telling him to stop so we wouldn’t get in trouble.” Was trimming pear trees the only way you earned money?

“No, after la temporada de piscar [harvesting] we would go to Bakersfield and lay down an irrigation system. We had to move pipes, and I remember when I had to supervise them at night, I would sleep under the water when they broke because the water was warmer. We needed to rent a place down in Bakersfield, and they paid me $3.25 per night. It was good money. We rented this house, and we had six Mexican guys, including your tío and me, and four girls. Some were American, and others were pochas, Mexican-American.” Did you have any encounters with deportation?

“Oh yeah. I used to have a girlfriend, her name was Suzy, but she was part of the pandillas, like gangs, in East LA, and I was really scared of the cholos. Fights would break down often when we went out to eat in her area, and I tried to get away, but one time la migra, immigration, came down and got us. They took us down to Tijuana. Sometimes they took [us] down to Calexico, Chula Vista, and Downtown LA for detainment. They would deport [us] in about 48 hours.” What did you do when you were deported?

Credit Maggie Salinas 1

Maggie Salinas


“I came back, por la familia.” Did you meet any interesting people?

“Cesar Chavez. I met him when he began his protests in Bakersfield, around 1973. Maybe it was just me, but I didn’t participate. To me, I felt there was no real gain in protesting other than attention, but I had more to lose. If I were older and had been educated past age 12, maybe I would have spoken to him more. A lot of us stayed away from the huelgas. We needed the money, our parents needed the money, and it was better than unemployment in Mexico. Uno tenia miedo de perderlo todo.”

“I was young, I only knew to survive. If I were educated, I think I would have appreciated the movement more. But I didn’t want to lose my progress in life. And he was famous, but I didn’t care to pay attention, but that was just me.” Today, Carmelo Salinas is a father of five children, all first-generation American citizens. He worked his way from being an immigrant in California to residing in Sunland Park, New Mexico. Born in 1955, he immigrated to California in the ’70s and learned English through pop culture. Though he didn’t receive his GED until 2014, along with his wife who was also an immigrant, he earned certification as a machinist and welder. He earned his American citizenship in the ’90s and helped his wife gain residency in 2007. To this day, he works endlessly to support his family, and contrary to harsh claims that date back to the ’70s, he never took advantage of welfare or the government’s re- sources without working. Although monetary wealth is not present in the family, love and moral values always are.

My mother’s escape from civil war

By Saw Kay 

San Diego, Calif.

The Karen Conflict started in 1949 in Burma (Myanmar), when the Burmese government began ethnic cleansing by killing non-Burmese or expelling them from the country. This continues today, including the religious cleansing of non-Buddhists, and is the longest ongoing civil war in the world.

At least 50,000 people have been killed. Around 93,000 people live in the nine refugee camps along the border between Burma and Thailand. Most of them are of Karen ethnicity. There are at least 1.5 million Karen who left Burma due to this conflict. They now reside in various countries around the world: the United States, Australia, Canada, Korea, India and Sweden.

Among them is my mother. My mother’s name is Ma Aye Myint and she is 60. She had to flee through the jungles in Burma for many years just to settle in Mae La refugee camp, Thailand. She was around 10 years old when she escaped from the Burmese soldiers who attacked her village.


The Karen Flag

The village my mother came from is Chitturae, located in Burma. She lived in the village with her parents and siblings. In my mother’s village, every day was a repeat of working in the field picking plants, selling food to the community, hunting, and holding com- munity events. Everyone in the community viewed one another as family members. They all held a warm and welcoming space. It was a home that could never be replaced, as my mother told me in a recent interview.

The villagers were prepared to face the conflict given the fact that it started a few decades earlier. However, they would not know when they would be the next victims.

The village was attacked around 1970. They were given no mercy and had to quickly flee for survival. What once was a beautiful village was now torn apart due to the destruction of the conflict.

When the Thailand refugee camps opened in October 1979, my people feared entering the camps since they might have been a trap. This influenced my mother’s family and caused them to constantly flee in the jungles between Burma and Thailand. In order to make it out alive, people would have to be mobile and not settle in one spot for too long. She would tell me that she had to flee barefoot because there were no such things as shoes where she came from.

As the years continued, my mother’s parents passed away and there were no safe villages to re- turn to. She could not depend on anyone for help and eventually sought refuge in the Thai camps at her own risk. She was between 20 and 30 years old at the time of arriving at one of the camps.

Life in the camp was very different from the village she came from. It was bordered off and you were prohibited from entering the city. Despite the protection she received, she remembers having to flee again from Burmese soldiers. To make things worse, she was pregnant with my older brother. We were born in the Mae La refugee camp. He was born in 1999 and I was born in 2002.

I am the youngest in my family and I was born with a disorder that influenced my parents to enter the U.S. I had to use a colostomy bag because my digestive system did not function normally. This was a disability I struggled with. The whole camp knew about me and believed that I would not make it. However, this would not stop my mother from reaching out to doctors to help me. Most professional doctors and nurses gave up on giving me treatment and doubted my chance of living. My mother’s love was too strong to give up on me and so she continued. She did not want me to be another child neglected by an undeveloped medical system in a third-world country. Only one doctor said I would make it and gave my mom hope. After a few years, once our papers to enter the United States were approved, we were sent to the Bronx, New York.