Debate sparks discussion of social media

Hannah Hippensteel, Features Reporter

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The fall semester Warrior Debate, held Oct. 29 in the Phelps TV studio, aimed to answer if social media has a negative impact on self-esteem and relationships.

Ron Strege, the director of the Warrior Success Center, moderated the two-person debate teams, with one for the affirmative and one for the opposition.

Madilyn Lavan and Kristen Fiske were on the affirmative side and argued that social media does have negative impacts. The opposition, who worked to prove that social media does more good than harm, was made up of Abigail Oldenberg and Ahmitara Alwal.

Denise McDowell, the vice president for student life and development, began the debate by explaining its purpose on campus.

“Our Warrior Debates provide the campus with a forum for civil discourse and an opportunity to change people’s points of view,” McDowell said.

With that in mind, the audience was surveyed for initial opinions on the matter.

After McDowell’s brief introduction and survey, both sides presented their opening remarks.

The affirmative side’s remarks began with mentions that social media has increased cyberbullying, suicide rates, a lack of firsthand communication skills and the fear of missing out.

Alwal, from the opposition, remarked that social media allows for people to make long-lasting connections that transcend distance and time.

Oldenberg followed this up by saying that social media helps people keep up with the fast-paced world and feel less alone in it.

The debate then shifted into an interpanel discussion, the first of which being on how relationships differ online versus in person.

Lavan and Fiske saw social media as a deterrence in relationships because it decreases ability to read social cues and make meaningful, intimate connections.

Alwal and Oldenberg rebutted with the idea that social media may help people who don’t thrive from in-person communication overcome this impediment.

“Having an online relationship liberates people from the aspects that could make them uncomfortable,” Oldenberg said.

The debate moved into discussions of cyberbullying and issues of self-esteem. Because the panel was all women, the idea of negative self-image prompted a great deal of discussion.

For Alwal, social media presented the opportunity to find role models who looked like her.

While the opposition agreed that social media can provide representation, they also brought up the idea of Internet trolls and bullies who hide behind screens.

“Social media platforms should be responsible for the negative people and experiences that happen on them,” Lavan said. Fiske followed up her teammate’s point by saying that there should be more procedures in place online to punish bullies.

On the point of social media platforms and their regulations, Alwal said that the apps should get less backlash.

The interpanel discussion was followed by closing remarks for both teams.

The opposition concluded with the idea that social media helps foster a sense of belonging while the affirmative side said that the negatives continue to outweigh the positives, which persists as social media dominates everyday life.

The audience was surveyed to see which side swayed the majority of the audience. The opposition team of Oldenberg and Alwal won the debate.

Kristen Fiske from the affirmative and Abigail Oldenberg from the opposition reflected on their participation after the debate.

Fiske explained that all of the debaters had little to no experience in a formal debate, so the experience was new for all of them. However, she also said that wouldn’t deter her from entering another debate.

“I gained confidence from being in this debate. Now that I know how it’s set up, I believe I would feel even more confident participating in the future.”

Oldenberg had prior experiences with debate, but her participation was improved by her teammate.

“I think Tara and I prepared well enough to pair our research and personal experiences together to answer any and all curveballs,” Oldenberg said.

The next Warrior Debate will happen in the spring semester.