Letters: Students have concerns about social media, a border wall, and Kanye's influence

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The following letters to the editor were written by Brattleboro Area Middle School students:

Dear Editor,

Throughout time communication between humans has changed and evolved; now, the majority of teens' human contact and communication is via social media. However, studies have shown that the prolonged use of these apps can have detrimental effects on teens' emotional health and put them at higher risk of anxiety, and low self-esteem. The same studies also claim that social media is connected to trouble sleeping and low grades. Prolonged social media use has many harmful effects, especially for young teens.

Even though this artificial communication appears to be connecting people, it is really a mass collection of photoshopped pictures and personalities. Nine in 10 girls report being unhappy with their bodies. Why? Because social media is littered with photoshopped, airbrushed, fake pictures of women that those nine in 10 girls feel like they can't live up to. Social standing now revolves around the number of followers you have on Instagram and how many people like your latest picture. Unrealistic expectations and the idea that your entire life revolves around how many followers you have on Instagram breed low self-esteem and anxiety. Other than low self-esteem and anxiety, this new advanced way of communicating enables bullying, specifically cyberbullying, which seven in 10 teens report experiencing. High speed, public ways of communicating opens doors for high speed, public humiliation. Having the constant threat of a nasty text or a demeaning comment hanging over your head is no way to live; social media enables bullying anytime anywhere and the victim never knows when it's going to happen. School is also a concern; the light from cell phones and computers prevents sleep by stopping natural signals from the brain triggering sleep. Text messages and post notifications also wake up teens preventing further sleep. Any and all of the effects listed make it near impossible for teens to learn anything in school and commonly result in low grades and bad attitudes. Some may say that social media connects people and allows more sophisticated human contact, but some of the connection can have negative effects, as shown above.

It is obvious that social media isn't going anywhere, it's only going to expand. However, before it becomes any bigger we need to educate our young people and everyone on its effects and dangers. Social media is an endless supply of airbrushed, photoshopped pictures that can drown anyone in self-doubt, but it also is a source that if used correctly can be a canvas for self-expression. It's a platform that can be used to torment someone with cyberbullying or it can be a way to stay connected with old friends. Social media can prevent sleep and distract from homework or it can be a source for learning. Social media should not, however, be our largest means of communication; prolonged use of social media still has harmful effects, especially for young teens.

Sincerely,

Meghan Frost-Clark

Dear Editor,

There is much dispute over a wall separating the United States and Mexico. Donald Trump's political platform was based partly on building a complete wall to separate the two countries. Nowadays, a complete border wall being built is a reality we face. The effectiveness and cost of a border wall have been and are being debated. There is one aspect that is not in the public eye to the same extent: the animals and plants that live along the border. We should consider the impact the U.S.-Mexico border wall would have on the environment.

While some of the wall would divide urban areas, a vast area of it would cut through areas of incredibly rich biodiversity. This biodiversity is threatened by the building of fences. A border wall would limit the geographic range of 62 endangered species and countless others. For example, the pygmy owl only flies about five feet off the ground. A wall would inhibit the moving of this threatened bird species. Furthermore, the Peninsular bighorn sheep range extends into both the United States and Mexico. Some say that walls can be designed to allow animal passage. Walls have been designed with gaps in the bottoms to allow the passage of wild animals, while keeping people out. However, given that the area around a wall would be brightly lit and cleared of vegetation, animals would feel too threatened to travel through their range naturally. Adding onto the fact that animals could not traverse their natural range, the separation of animal populations would lead to a decrease in biodiversity. This would put animal populations more at risk for certain diseases; since their genetic code would be remarkable similar, none would have a disease-resistant mutation. Walls can also trap animals, even if the wall does not surround them. The area around the Rio Grande is a floodplain. When the river floods, animals need to flee to higher ground. With the border wall in place, animals would not be able to escape floods. Another danger animals would not be able to escape is wildfires. The wall would influence wildfire patterns. Imagine a herd of deer running away from a wildfire, only to be stopped by a 20-foot-tall concrete wall. The wall at the border would be dangerous to the animals around it.

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In all, a wall at the United States-Mexico border would have a disastrous effect on the surrounding plants and animals. It would cut across the geographic ranges of animals and plants, limiting biodiversity and access to resources. The wall would prevent animals from seeking shelter from floods and fires. Building a wall at the United States-Mexico border would have disastrous consequences to the wildlife spread across the political border. Considering this is important in the debate over a border wall.

Sincerely,

Anna Cummings

Dear Editor,

Who do you think is the most influential artist of the last two decades? Eminem, Beyonce, or maybe Kanye West? Kanye is one of the most creative people to ever rap and has one of the most impressive album discographies.

Kanye West (or Yeezy) has been a controversial topic ever since he said that he would've voted for Trump in 2016. Based on that, many people I know formed their opinion on him the second they heard that, due to Trump's crowd of critics. But if you take the time to look past his political beliefs, you will see a loving family man who has one of the most impressive discographies ever of any genre ever and he has the most Grammys of any hip-hop artist ever (21). He has seven multi-platinum albums and many best selling singles.

In the last few days I researched what the best albums were since 2000 and Kanye had many, including My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, The College Dropout, Late Registration and the Kanye-produced The Blueprint. He married Kim Kardashian in 2014 and they have three kids and are expecting a fourth. He started his music career as a producer on the classic Jay Z album The Blueprint. He is the most impactful artist of the 21st century because at the time he released his first album the hip-hop scene was dominated by Gangsta Rap, meaning people rapped about gangs, drugs, and sex. Because of this he became immensely popular because he was the person who people listened to when they didn't want to listen to Gangsta Rap. His first three albums are all about relevant topics like school, and in the song "All Falls Down" he talks about how people nowadays are too focused on how they dress and use clothes to hide their insecurity. When you listen to Kanye's different albums one after another you will get a complete variety of sounds; for example, in Yeezus there are a lot of bombastic loud sounds but on 808s and Heartbreak there is a more synth driven sound. This is because when he produces and releases an album he considers that he masters the sound and he moves on to the next. On top of that he is by far the most famous clothing designer. He signed with Adidas in 2013 — at the time they were getting crushed by Nike; he created his Yeezy shoe line and it became incredibly popular and has made more than one billion dollars. Now, wherever you go, whether they are Kanye fans or not you will see people wearing Yeezys. Unfortunately because his first five albums were so amazing the expectations for his new music is incredibly high; he has fallen off and he talks about this on his 2016 album, on the song "I Love Kanye" with lyrics like "I miss the old Kanye, straight from the go Kanye, I hate the new Kanye, the bad mood Kanye, the always rude Kanye, spaz in the news Kanye." Based on this you can only imagine if he never came out about supporting Trump, he would be the most influential artist without a doubt because even when he did he has still impacted so many people, and imagine how many he would've if he had stayed quiet about his political opinions.

Because Kanye is one of the most impactful artists of this generation and because of his impressive discography of seven platinum albums and 21 Grammys, his billion dollar shoe deal, and his all around impact on everyone and everything he does, he is the most impactful artist out of any music genre of the 21st century.

Sincerely,

Erik Sorensen


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