To Troll or Not to Troll: Millennials and Politics Today

Photo by Yolanda Sun on Unsplash

What does trolling have to do with millennials’ political participation? Dr. Lynn Clark, communications professor at the University of Denver, kicked off the Fall 2019 Civic Engagement Research Conference with her lecture on “Growing up Tracked: How Millennials are Changing Politics by Harnessing Attention in a Society of Surveillance.” Dr. Clark discussed how young people today are combining digital media and civic literacy as they participate in the political process and advocate for change. This participation often takes the form of trolling and “soft trolling,” a term coined by Dr. Clark. Here are three things that you need to know about trolling and younger generations’ political participation:

Trolling is Not What You Think It Is

Dr. Clark defined trolling as “saying something online to upset as many people as possible using whatever linguistic or behavioral tools that are available.” However, when young people engage in trolling to participate in politics, they troll for a purpose, not just to be antagonistic. For example, they troll the trolls (call out people that slander them), troll the system by challenging its flaws, and engage in “soft trolling.”

“Soft Trolling”: A More Indirect Approach

“Soft trolling” refers to how youth are “calling attention to power dynamics” with their peers as the intended audience, not larger corporations or governments. Youth use this method to advocate for political change in a more indirect manner so that they will not be viewed as too antagonistic. An example Dr. Clark presented of soft trolling was a meme depicting a man playing tennis, swinging at tear gas instead of a ball. The creators of this meme were “making light of the situation” while also taking a certain political stance.

Sharing One’s Story

Young people are using social media to tell their stories and fight misrepresentation. Dr. Clark shared an example of a Senegalese Muslim high school student who created a TikTok video in response to the Netflix film “Tall Girl,” because she felt that her experience was ignored in the media’s narrative. This student and others are saying “my story is important and it’s not being validated here.” Dr. Clark further explains: “Rather than being framed in a way they don’t like, young people are utilizing media savvy to address their own concerns.”

Through trolling the trolls, trolling the system, and engaging in “soft trolling,” young people are combining their digital media and civic literacy to participate in politics. Because social media is emotionally charged in general, Dr. Clark ended her address with the following advice: “it is important for young people to figure out what they want to do and to see themselves as agentive [taking an active role] in some way” as they participate in politics through the use of social media.

Would Suffragists Support The Equal Rights Amendment? Find Out at the 2019 Dead Suffragists’ Debate

Would you like to meet some of the women who brought the vote to women 100 years ago? These women who changed the US political landscape may be gone, but you will have a chance to hear their arguments for women’s rights on Thursday, Nov 19, 2019 during the Dead Suffragists’ Debate.

This debate will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, passed June 4, 1919, that states: “The rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” On 18 August 1920, the 36th state ratified the amendment, and 8 days later it was officially adopted.

The Amendment was championed by several of the historical figures that will be on the stage at the Debate. All of them are contemporaries, but each experienced the period in a differently. The debate will be a fun experience to help those attending appreciate both the collective striving for women’s rights and the difficulties of finding common ground. This year two scholars, a BYU faculty member, and a student will be playing the roles of these visionaries:

Barbara Jones Brown, Executive Director of the Mormon History Association, will play Martha Hughes Cannon

Jane Hafen, Emerita Professor of English from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, will play Zitkala-Sa a.k.a Gertrude Bonnin

Jamie Horrocks, a BYU Assistant Professor of English, will play Alice Paul

Kayla Jackson, a BYU Political Science and Global Women’s Studies student, will play Ida B. Wells

While this debate will commemorate the 19th amendment, it will also be considering the Equal Rights Amendment, that states “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” This amendment was passed by Congress on March 22, 1972. This amendment, which did not require a time limit for ratification, still requires a single state’s vote to be ratified, the state of Utah.

In addition to hearing about these historical figures’ lives, the debate will consider what changed in some communities before, between, and after the legislation of the two amendments, one that has been ratified, the other that has not.

The Debate of the Dead is an annual event held by the Department of History that brings to life historical figures from the past to help shed light on the issues and challenges of their times, and how they effect us today.

This event is free of charge and open to the public. To get more information on the Dead Suffragists’ Debate, contact the History department at 801-422-4636.

2019 Chauncy Harris Lecture Discusses the Balance Between Humans, Wildlife, and the Environment

Marguerite Madden, Professor and Director Center for Geospatial Research; Department of Geography, University of Georgia will give the 2019 Chauncy Harris Lecture on Thursday, November 21st at 11:00 AM in 250 KMBL. Dr. Madden’s lecture will examine understanding elephant movements and linkages to development, local communal farming and drought towards mitigating Human-Elephant Conflict in Africa.

Dr. Madden’s research interests include GIScience and Landscape Ecology, including remote sensing, geographic information systems (GIS), spatio-temporal analysis, geovisualization and geographic object-based image analysis, as applied to landscape-scale biological/physical processes and human-impacts on the environment.

Dr. Chauncy Harris and his family endowed the Chauncy Harris Distinguished Lecture at Brigham Young University in 2003. Dr. Harris graduated from BYU in 1933 at the age of nineteen with a degree in geology and geography. He was BYU’s first Rhodes Scholar and the valedictorian of his graduating class. He later earned a second B.A. from Oxford and a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Chicago. Dr. Harris is best known for his work in urban geography and the geography of the Soviet Union/Russia.

Co-Founder of the Difficult Break-up Support Group Shares that Healing Comes Through Connections

Laura Waters Black and her husband Austin Black

“The most powerful catalyst for healing is making connections with people who have had similar experiences,” says Laura Waters Black, co-founder of the Difficult Break-up Support Group on BYU campus. Waters Black, a family studies major, started the group because of her experience with a broken relationship and because she “did not want other people to feel alone.” With help from a friend, Waters Black was able to start the support group, receiving additional assistance from Professor Haupt of the School of Family Life, who, Waters Black reports, “believed in me and saw value in the idea.”

At the time Waters Black had the idea to start the group, she was also taking Professor Haupt’s SFL 315 writing class, a course that encourages students to publish their work and coaches them through the process. Waters Black felt inspired to write about her experience with a broken engagement for a class assignment, because she had “felt marginalized and isolated at that time and wanted to help others” by telling her story. Writing about her experience proved impactful to Waters Black, who said, “I never thought I’d do public scholarship, but writing about my experience was transformative and took me to areas I’d never thought I’d be in.”

Organizing and joining in on sessions of the Difficult Break-up Support Group has also proved to be a transformative experience for Waters Black. The support group involves 10-week sessions, with therapists leading psychoeducational discussions on topics such as trust, shame, and ambiguous loss. Participants engage in deep interactions and confront challenges together. As someone who has gone through similar trials, Waters Black says that she can be a mentor figure in these sessions, showing these women that there is “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Waters Black adds that the “most beautiful thing to see is when people with different experiences come together.” The group has included 20-year-olds and 60-year-olds, who are able to connect with one another despite their differences in age and life experience. Waters Black says that what has stood out to her from these group sessions is how the older women respect the pain of younger women. An older woman who experienced years of relationship challenges once comforted a 19-year-old who had a painful 6-month relationship by telling her: “Pain is pain for you, and I don’t think your pain is less than mine.” For Waters Black, the experience of creating and participating in the Difficult Break-up Support Group has been “healing for me in ways I didn’t think I needed.”

To learn about the importance of human connections in overcoming trauma, read Waters Black’s article here. Also, watch out for her upcoming article in the Ensign: “How a Broken Engagement Healed My Heart.”

Free Counseling for Students at BYU’s Comprehensive Clinic

The hottest spot on 9th East is no doubt The BYU Creamery. A lesser-known spot, just across the street from the ‘80s-styled ice cream diner is the BYU Comprehensive Clinic, located in The John Taylor Building. The clinic has been serving BYU Students and the surrounding community since 1976. As part of the Marriage and Family Therapy program here at BYU, the Comprehensive Clinic functions as a training and research clinic and offers free counseling services to BYU students.

Part of being a training clinic means that sessions are held by graduate students being supervised by experienced licensed professionals. These students also assist with the clinical research that is facilitated as well as the psychological theories that are constructed there. The research results can be found on the comprehensive clinic’s blog.

The blog features stories that provide brief descriptions of the results of their studies. Though all of the topics covered are along the lines of marriage, family life, and relationships, there are many options that relate to your everyday life as a student. These articles range from how siblings affect adolescent happiness to the secret of managing stress. 

Both the physical comprehensive clinic and their blog are an excellent on-campus resource to students. To stay up to date on the research coming out of the comprehensive clinic, visit their blog’s page on their website. Information for scheduling appointments can be found on the FAQ page of their website.

2019 De Lamar Jensen Lecture: The Reformation in Religious Context

Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Distinguished Professor of History, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The 2019 De Lamar Jensen lecture will be presented by Merry Wiesner-Hanks, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Thursday, October 10, 2019 at 11:00 AM in 2107, Jesse Knight Building. This lecture is free and open to the public.

Wiesner-Hanks’ lecture will discuss how the voyages of Columbus and the religious changes of the Reformation that are often seen as ushering in the modern world, but they are usually examined separately. Her lecture will bring them together, discussing religious changes around the world in the sixteenth century, some of which occurred because of the interactions between cultures that resulted from the voyages of discovery, but many of which grew out of movements of reform within various religious traditions as highly-educated thinkers and ordinary people changed religious beliefs and practices and sought to redefine the relationship between the divine and human. These will include the creation of Sikhism by Guru Nanak, reforms in Confucianism, the spread of Kaballah, Shi’ite Islam in the Safavid Empire, among others. Seeing the Reformation with the context of religious transformations across the globe does not diminish its importance, but allows us to understand it in a new way.

The annual De Lamar Jensen lecture is presented by the Department of History in the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences, and was established to honor Jensen, who joined the BYU history faculty in 1957.

On Strengthening the Stepfamily – The 2019 Virginia F. Cutler Lecture

Gordon Limb, Director of the BYU School of Social Work

The School of Family Life is holding the 56th Annual Virginia F. Cutler 2019 Lecture on Tuesday, October 15th, at 7:00 pm in 250 KMBL. Gordon Limb, PhD, Director of the BYU School of Social Work, will be leading an interactive discussion on the following topic: “Strengthening the Stepfamily: Research Evidence from the General Population and American Indians.”

This interactive discussion focuses on the risk and protective factors of growing up in a stepfamily, including what we know about American Indian stepfamilies. Data will be presented from the Stepfamily Experiences Project (STEP), a BYU research study of 1,593 emerging adults, including 340 American Indians, who grew up in stepfamilies. Implications from practice, policy and future research will be given relating to both the general population and American Indians.

2019 Civic Engagement Research Conference Will Examine How Millennials are Impacting Today’s Political Landscape

The Office of Civic Engagement Leadership is hosting a conference on “Millennial Political Engagement” on Thursday, October 24, 2019 from 9:00am-4:30pm in the Hinckley Alumni Center East Conference Room. All students are invited to attend. The purpose of the conference is to help students across disciplines to understand the value of research on civic engagement.

The presentations will be:
9:30-10:45 am
Lynn Clark, University of Denver
“Growing Up Tracked: How Millennials are Changing Politics by Harnessing Attention in a Society of Surveillance”

11 am – 12:15 pm
Stella Rouse, University of Maryland
“Latino Millennials and Attitudes about Climate Change”

12:30-1:15
Peter Levine, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service
“Why We Need SPUD (Scale, Pluralism, Unity and Depth)”

1:45-3 pm
Leticia Bode, Georgetown University
“Feeling the Pressure: Attitudes about Volunteering and Their Effect on Civic and Political Behaviors”

Writing Westward Podcast: Exciting Stories from the North American West

Brenden Rensink, Producer and Host of the Charles Redd Center’s Writing Westward Podcast

With topics ranging from Native Studies to rural America to race and ethnicity, the Redd Center’s Writing Westward Podcast features conversations with writers who focus on the American West. With a new episode released each month, the podcast has recently passed its one-year anniversary mark. Brenden Rensink, the Associate Director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies, producer and host of the podcast, began the podcast “as a way for the Redd Center to engage with more scholars and give more authors a platform to share their work.” The Redd Center invites scholars to give lectures on campus, but Rensink found that there are more people to spotlight than there is time in the semester. The Writing Westward Podcast allows the Redd Center to feature more scholars in a unique way that reaches additional audiences. Rensink also adds: “It would be dishonest if I claimed it wasn’t also an excuse for me, personally, to sit and read interesting books.”

And the books featured on the podcast are interesting. Rensink reports that he tries to “choose topics that will appeal to academics and the general public.” Many of these topics fall under the umbrella category of history, literature, and poetry. Because the podcast is multidisciplinary, the series as a whole features a wide variety of subfields: Native Studies, the environment, rural America, immigration, race and ethnicity, memoir, and more. The authors of these works are renowned in their particular fields. As Rensink explains, “Guests have included many prominent scholars whose books have won many awards.” One of these authors is John Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times Journalist, who wrote The Last Cowboys: A Pioneer Family in the American West. Another one of these authors is Tacey M. Atsitty, writer of Rain Scald: Poems, and recipient of multiple creative writing and poetry awards.

In addition to compelling topics and authors, a casual conversational style is a distinguishing characteristic of the podcast. Rensink says, “One of my guiding principles is to host a loose conversation that is flexible and goes where it will. Rather than stock Q&A, I like to allow us to wander. I think this makes for a more engaging listen.” Rensink reports that listeners’ response to the podcast has been “very positive,” and the Redd Center is continuing to work on attracting more and more listeners.

In the introduction to each episode, Rensink states that the episodes are meant to “inspire you to learn more about the North American West as a region as well as its peoples and environments, histories, and literature, and so forth” and to “provoke as many questions as they provide answers.” Join in on the conversations about the North American West and gain valuable insights and discoveries at http://www.writingwestward.org.

Not All Bad: A Look into Dr. Sarah Coyne’s Social Media Research

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

It’s said that every generation comes with habits that are loathed by the adults of that generation. The youth of the ‘70s had too much synth-heavy rock. Those too-loud-too-punk kids in the ‘80s played too many video games. Young adults today are relentlessly judged for their use of a seemingly far worse source of entertainment: social media.

Dr. Sarah M. Coyne, professor in the School of Family Life, conducted a six-year study examining the patterns of time spent on social media to see how adolescent lives are affected by the quantity of use. The 457 Participants in the study were from various upbringings, ethnicity, income, and family structure. All were aged 10-14 to begin in order to observe them throughout adolescence. To be true to the purpose of the study, examining differential patterns of social media time use throughout adolescence into early adulthood, the research team focused specifically on time, disregarding content, spent on Social Networking Sites (SNS), such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Yearly, each participant would answer a series of questions offering information about their habits and behaviors. At the end of the study, depression, aggression, and delinquency were assessed. Coyne found that the participants naturally sorted, as predicted, into three groups: Increasers, Peak Users, and Stable Users. The Increasers had the worst mental health outcomes than any of the other groups. To be considered an Increaser, the participants had a moderate amount of social media usage at the beginning of the study that stayed moderate through the halfway point then skyrocketed towards the end of the six-year period. Sadly, these people experienced aggressive behavior, both physically and in relationships, leading to cyberbullying, delinquency, and an increased likelihood for addictive and problematic behavior.

The majority of participants, however, categorized as Stable. Stable use participants had a fixed, moderate usage of SNSs over the years of the study. When used moderately, the study found that social media is a normative part of growing up in the digital world (Coyne, Walker, Holmgren, & Stockdale, 2018). Much like the music and hangout spots of the ‘70s and ‘80s, SNSs provide new ways for youth to interact with their peers, make new friends, participate in adolescent culture, and exert age appropriate independence (Coyne, et al., 2018).

Social media has been getting a bad rap, but studies like these show that the addictiveness of SNS depends on everyone’s own ability to self-regulate time spent online. Though at its worst it can lead to forlorn situations, social media is hardly as bad as rock music was in the eyes of moms and dads of the ‘70s. While it may be wrapped in different packaging, youth of any generation are simply looking to connect to the time and to each other.