This weekend, I found myself in a crisis.
Luckily, it was a Cold War Model United Nations crisis simulation, with no real implications for my future college life. But for the sake of hilarious debate and conflict-resolution, we acted as President Kennedy’s cabinet, making decisions to defeat the USSR and save the world from communist influence.
In comparison to an average college day, it was a pretty unique experience. Hours went by without using technology—we collaborated with each other to come up with solutions and drew solely off our own knowledge and whatever crisis management techniques we did or didn’t have. To say it was daunting at first was an understatement—reacting quickly, thinking of solutions and diplomatically convincing others to follow you is quite the task.
It’s one of the many endeavor’s college should prepare us for, and perhaps the most important. Having an arsenal of knowledge and experience is crucial when making decisions after being presented with an issue especially having it come from your internal locus of control.
So far, college has done an okay job to prepare me for this. Certain experiences have forced me to be proactive, figure things out or quickly make what is hopefully the right decision. But as I struggled to come up with my own solutions this weekend, I concluded that I was unequipped to respond.
I realized how little an average day demanded that my thoughts be my own. An overreliance on technology and all the weird gadgets our society has to offer has cluttered our imaginations and stifled our ability to focus and come up with independent thoughts. While social media may indicate that society has become more independent, it has turned up the voice of the status quo and bred conformity.
Aside from social media, a key tool is absent from most of our generation’s everyday lives. Reading books seems to be reserved for assignments in class or essay-writing. Some might drone on and on about how our generation ‘doesn’t read’ but the more important element is that we’re losing out on one of the most crucial pathways to independent thinking.
Without reading, we limit our outlook to word of mouth, forming important opinions from random people on the Internet, and maybe not even realizing the power of marketing, persuasion and appeals to our short attention span. Responding to a crisis requires thinking beyond these superficial avenues towards judgment.
Reading forces us to come to terms with a world that is not our own and bury ourselves in a time and place where custom and tradition radically departs from our comfortable, college life. The problem with social media is the market for ‘relatability,’ where thousands of likes are garnered as people voice thoughts, concerns and humor that a wide base of people share. It does not foster an ‘outside the box’ mentality – in other words, the thoughts and visions needed to solve today’s problems. On a more individual level, reading may be one of the most powerfully connected activities to fully developing identity and values. Reading broadens our perspective, as a consistent focus on experiences far removed from our own shape, narrow and develop our own thoughts like no other. Without consistent engagement with arguments across the time periods and ideologies, how can we truly come to terms with what it is we believe? If we desire to graduate college as more than an empty shell of Twitter memes, we must actively engage with diverse material to truly develop our independent thought.
My crisis committee this weekend required more than my own solutions. When other delegates presented their ideas in the form of directives or staffers rushed in announcing updates from the USSR position, we had to ask questions and vote on the matters at hand. In other words, I had to know where I stood and what I believed. Sometimes, this involved challenging a policy that seemingly everyone stood for. Only by thinking through difficult issues for myself could I have the confidence to do that. As modern-day crisis unfold and demand a solution, I only hope our generation will bring genuinely original thoughts to the table – and find some time to read a book instead of scrolling through Instagram a few more times.
~Kristen Ziccarelli, A&E Editor~