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Opinions The Manitou Messenger, volume 133, number 9

Photo: Civil Rights demonstrators from St. Olaf and Carleton holding a variety of signs stand around an out-of-frame podium. Credits: St. Olaf Archives

What Instagram’s new change could mean for content creators

Lerato Mensah-Aborampah, Variety Editor

A quick read through some people’s reactions to Instagram’s recent announcement regarding likes made me realize that there is actually a misunderstanding about what the announcement was in the first place. No, Instagram is not removing the feature that allows you to like people’s posts. So do not worry – you can continue liking every single post by your celebrity crush. However, you will not be able to see the number of people who have done the same. Only the owners of accounts would be able to see the number of likes their content received.

"Likes on Instagram are a form of capital that speaks to one’s value and credibility."

Countries like Canada, Japan and Brazil have already implemented this change. Instagram’s CEO, Adam Mosseri announced that this move is an attempt to de-pressurise their social space – to see Instagram shift from the more competitive comparison of number of likes to an emphasis on the content and appreciation of people’s work and art. The potential implications of this feature for U.S. social media culture has a lot people in a roar of conversations and debates.

I cannot help but be skeptical of how this move would affect smaller businesses and growing voices on Instagram. A lot of influencers and businesses benefit directly from the metric system of like counts and earn a living from it. Whether it had been Instagram’s intention or not, it has become a platform from which entertainers, entrepreneurs and content creators can find creative means to market themselves and engage visibly with their audience. Likes on Instagram are a form of capital that speaks to one’s value and credibility.

I am not saying that all accounts that have many likes have great content; we all know that is not true. Nor am I saying that the actual content cannot speak for itself in exclusion to the number of likes it gets. However, when you are a growing business or an influencer, on top of the work you put into creating and marketing your work, users’ ability to see the number of likes you get on posts can speak mounts on people’s continual positive perception of your work.

Instagram is not oblivious to this and they even acknowledged it, promising to come to an alternative of how businesses and content creators can communicate value to their market and audience. Whether or not Instagram ends up making this test permanent in the U.S., it will be interesting to see if they choose to protect businesses and influencers from being negatively impacted by the change.

While Facebook Inc., which owns Instagram, says this change is a ‘fundamental’ one, many people insist that this is one of many ways the company is asserting its power on their market – to have more businesses and content creators pay for ads directly to them. I am not indifferent to some of the positives that can come from reducing the arbitrary measures young people use to define their worth. But, honestly, when it comes to Facebook, there is always something cringy about their ‘well-intended’ initiatives disguising the profit-driven ethic that I have come to associate them with.

mensah1@stolaf.edu

Lerato Mensah-Aborampah ’22 is from Maseru, Lesotho. Her major is undecided.

Graphic: Thomas Hardy/Manitou Messenger

New registration system is a step in the right direction

Grace Klinefelter, Contributing Writer

As anyone who consistently reads the Manitou Messenger from start to end will know, St. Olaf is implementing an entirely new registration system. It will be first come, first serve; seniors get access first, then juniors, then underclassmen. The Registrar’s Office promises an easier and more straightforward registration process, a claim that may or may not prove true in the long run.

"In a first come, first serve system, being early to the game is everything."

The day spring registration opened this year, one of my friends and I skipped lunch, made Kraft mac n’ cheese in her microwave and signed up for classes within five minutes of registration opening. We knew the timing did not matter, but it made us feel a little more in control; with five majors and two concentrations planned between us, any amount of fantasized control over our class registration was calming.

As a first year, I heard plenty of advice and theories from peers and upperclassmen alike about how registration works. It felt to me like a convoluted, incomprehensible system: throw your classes into the void and hope it all works itself out. Cross your fingers and pray to the Registrar. Now, some of this panic is just my flair for the dramatic. But there is a general consensus among students that the old registration system is stressful and confusing.

So, will the new system be better? That remains to be seen. I can, however, offer some predictions. My class tested the registration system over the summer when we signed up for first year writing and religion classes. As a Great Conversation student, I did not have to go through the process, but most of the first years I know did. As a whole, they found the process pretty simple – with the caveat that they had no prior experience with which to compare it.

The first years’ approaches to registration varied. My circle of first years included both ends of the spectrum: some were like me, refreshing the page every few minutes until the program opened, while others forgot about it altogether until the very last day.

It is this difference in timing that worries me. In a first come, first serve system, being early to the game is everything; making mac n’ cheese and huddling with your laptop is necessary rather than slightly obsessive. For me, it raises a few potential problems. The most obvious is that this urge to be early will go overboard and that the already high-strung St. Olaf student body will just become more stressed – exactly the opposite of what the Registrar’s Office intended.

Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect registration system. It is a process that will cause stress and difficulty no matter how well designed it is. And as a whole, St. Olaf’s new system seems more straightforward and the first years generally had no complaints. Although I worry about the added anxiety the first come, first serve aspect will inevitably bring, I still think it is a better system.

Registration will never be a low-stress situation, but the new system is a nice attempt to make it less convoluted. If all else fails, register early, cross your fingers and eat some mac n’ cheese.

klinef1@stolaf.edu

Grace Klinefelter ’23 is from Omaha, Neb. Her major is undecided.

Graphic: Anna Weimholt/Manitou Messenger

Obama calls out cancel culture

Karen Larionova

A video of former President Barack Obama criticizing cancel culture has been gaining attention on social media. The video is from a rare public appearance Obama made on Oct. 29 at an Obama Foundation Summit, but his even rarer harshness raised eyebrows for his online fanbase.

To be clear, definitions of cancel culture can vary, but my definition is attempting to hurt someone’s career and steer success away from them if they are bigoted. People deserve second chances, but most celebrities who are cancelled have good reason to be.

Obama claimed that young people on social media think activism is being “as judgemental as possible.” He said that people can tweet against a celebrity and “sit back and feel pretty good” because of how “woke” they are.

He even defended his views by saying, “People who you are fighting may love their kids.” Whatever that means.

Basically, Obama hates social media activism and cancel culture and his harsh language offended many young people, including myself. I am not a big fan of Obama to begin with, but with the 2020 elections ramping up, Obama cannot be excusing racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination, which is what cancel culture targets.

My favorite example is when cancel culture targeted actress Scarlett Johansson after years of problematic actions and comments. She took the lead role in the live-action adaptation of the Japanese manga series “Ghost in the Shell.” She also tried to take a transgender lead role in “Rub & Tug” despite being a cis-gender, white person. She then responded to criticism by saying that she should be able to play “any person, tree or animal.”

Many people had conversations about the complex subjects of representation in media and plenty agreed that Johansson was a bigot who should not be supported. Johansson is the type of person who does not deserve a second chance anymore because she is clearly bigoted and there are people with much more talent and intellect who can do her job better.

Social media allows many more people to be educated about the other media they consume and good conversations about politics can occur when a celebrity is cancelled. Obama says cancel culture is not “bringing about change,” but I actually got into politics and educated myself after seeing so much buzz about the 2016 elections on Tumblr and Instagram.

"Obama says cancel culture is not 'bringing about change,' but I actually got into politics and educated myself after seeing so much buzz about the 2016 elections on Tumblr and Instagram."

Does social media activism get bills to pass or wars to stop? Absolutely not, but activism does not have to be at the macro level. Simply educating Americans in every way possible can have great impacts on our conversations about topics such as race and gender.

When people, especially politicians, are abrasive to “wokeness,” it just means they do not like being politically correct or watching their language. It is really not hard to be polite and not racist or sexist.

Considering the 2020 elections are ramping up, Obama must uphold high standards for Democrats and even higher standards for anti-racists and anti-sexists. The discussion within the party must be about how to alleviate and ultimately solve America’s oppressive structures and that requires accurate language or political correctness or “wokeness,” as Obama calls it.

While I understand that sometimes teenagers on Twitter can be ruthless and harsh, the majority of cancel culture deals with either clear examples of bigotry or debates about the gray area and both situations are completely valid and helpful for political discourse.

While Obama may have tried to point out the extreme of social media, he actually offended teenagers who learn and discuss politics on platforms like Twitter. Social media activists who spread the word and debate about political correctness are not the enemy.

larion1@stolaf.edu

Karen Larionova ’23 is from Eden Prairie, Minn. Her major is undecided

Graphic: Jackie Dudley/Manitou Messenger

Rent control will do nothing to solve California’s housing crisis ________________

Logan Graham, Staff Writer

Thomas Hardy/Manitou Messenger

The conceit of the free market is that generally it supplies most things efficiently to most people. Whenever it fails to supply, it is a market failure.

There is, unquestionably, a market failure at play in California’s housing market. This market failure has managed to place California as one of the richest states with the most homelessness. The question is simple: why has the market failed to provide enough affordable housing to Californians? The answer is simple: not enough housing is being built.

The California legislature has just passed a bill to limit rent price increases, which, while well-intentioned, will ultimately fail to help the housing problem. The problem in California is not that existing housing is too expensive, it is that this expense happens because there is simply not enough housing options in the first place. If it were just a rent price problem, then there would be a surplus of empty apartments and homes in California, with people just unable to rent there. The simple truth is that not enough housing is being built.

This is not just a practical question in California – rent controls have time and time again proven ineffective in reducing housing costs and homelessness. In fact, the Washington Post referred to rent controls as “the one policy all economists can agree is bad,” as it is fundamentally inept at solving the real problem at hand; there are not enough places to live.

This is not a carte-blanche, conservative, anti-government intervention argument. In fact, there is a state intervention in the California housing market that would actually do a whole lot to address this issue. Furthermore, it is contained in a bill already proposed in the California State Senate.

California Senate Bill 50 would attack existing zoning law in California. Outside of the very center of California’s major cities, local zoning laws prohibit housing that is not single-family housing. This is because the constituents deeply involved in local governments want to see their home values go up and have misaligned incentives that lead them to pass zoning law to keep others out of the market.

This bill would forcefully change much of the zoning law in California to allow for the spread of more urban housing, including apartment and condominium complexes. Doing so would dramatically increase the amount of people who can live in these neighborhoods and, as the vehement opposition of local homeowners associations tell us, would decrease property value (and, therefore, rent).

A secondary benefit of this policy would be reducing the environmental impact of these neighborhoods. With urban expansion, the need for cars would decrease and maybe finally the famous LA traffic would start to be reduced. Furthermore, the people living within California’s largest cities have some of the lowest environmental impacts in the U.S. This comes from a combination of not needing air conditioning, being less likely to drive cars and environmental regulation in the cities and California. Increasing the size of urban parts of these city areas would dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of California as a whole.

This bill has sat stagnant for months, as it has divided the California legislature. Some are scared that the increased development could price people out of the market, as developers may elect to build high-cost places to live rather than homes that could be afforded.

With all due-respect to California’s politicians, this idea is at best ignorant and at worst pandering spurred on by a detestment of any and all of the economic literature on the topic. When looked at in a contemporary or historical lens, the development of and creation of more housing in a market with a constant demand will always decrease price. Gentrification is already a massive problem in California’s urban centers and suburbs, specifically because not enough housing is built to satisfy the demand.

If the California legislature wanted to actually make movement on solving California’s housing crisis, they would pass the bill they’ve already written: California Senate Bill 50.

graham10@stolaf.edu

Logan Graham ’23 is from Warrenville, Ill. His major is undecided.

Graphic: Thomas Hardy/Manitou Messenger