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Teenagers and warranted labeling

Tumblr buzzes with diehard Bernie Sanders supporters, as Facebook newsfeeds overflow with stubborn defenders of veganism. At the same time, there has been a rise of newly proclaimed “intersectional feminists” on Twitter profile descriptions. Internet platforms are being bombarded by people with self-proclaimed labels that weren’t given sufficient research. The lack of research oftentimes leads to unwarranted arguments that get unnecessarily brutal.

Why are we teenagers specifically inclined to identify ourselves with new labels? Why do we categorize ourselves without putting enough research beforehand? Quicker accessibility to information online, as a result of social media outlets, allows us to swiftly judge and accept whatever information is being immediately presented to us without taking into consideration the credibility of the sources.

Moreover, adolescents are more than likely to go through the stage of psychosocial development in which an identity crisis occurs. Developmental psychologists have discovered that those who have made a strong commitment to an identity tend to be happier and healthier than those who have not. Those with a status of identity diffusion—people with neither a commitment nor an identity crisis—tend to feel out of place and don’t pursue a sense of identity. During this phase, when teenagers are struggling to discover their personas, they are vulnerable to well popularized—but not necessarily informative—labels.

In order to avoid misunderstandings, notorious amongst hostile Youtube and Tumblr comments, sufficient research is crucial. In more than one occasion, I’ve witnessed ultraconservative non-feminists accusing feminists of supporting an intellectual hoax, of being hypocritical for accusing men as the source of all problems. Little do they know, these double standards are most likely the overreactions of teenage girls on Tumblr who have failed to do their own research on what it means to be a feminist.

True feminism is egalitarian, a fight for gender equality and not a fight against men. Very often, a skewed definition of feminism becomes the poster-child. Without thorough fact-checking, arguments become a spiral of ill-advised statements with no real intellectual remedy. Outbursts and criticisms turn emotional and repetitive: uninformed, deep-seated feminists accuse all men of evil while militant anti-feminists indict the entire movement of being gender-specific or sexist.

Likewise, the comment section on Facebook posts advocating for veganism are filled with headstrong meat-eaters and insistent vegans. Arguments yet again become repetitive and stubborn, showing the consequences of not taking the initiative to research. Most critics claim that vegans are disrupting the natural food chain, employing the slippery slope argument that eating meat is ethical because humans are naturally carnivores.

However, the advocation for a vegan lifestyle comes off as preachy and self-righteous. It has gone to the extent of popping up in my newsfeed almost every other day–such propagation has grown tiresome. Graphic images of animal flesh and tissues employ scare tactics to shock meat-eaters without presenting sufficient information.

The combination of a lack of research and the usage of social media leads to a culmination of misunderstandings. However, we can solve this problem by simply keeping an open-mind and taking on the responsibility of raising our own awareness.

By Lisa Shen, Opinion editor

Editorial Cartoon by Angela Zhang