STUDENT WRITERS: Reaction to Covid-19 outbreak, and school

The Town Line presents the STUDENT WRITERS PROGRAM
This week featuring: ERSKINE ACADEMY

by Wes McGlew
Junior, Erskine Academy

What seemed like 10 years ago, March, was the beginning of this crazy, terrifying, isolating adventure that we experienced through a screen. Everything I had been looking forward to this year had suddenly been uprooted and thrown out. I think a lot of people were in shock or denial, or I don’t know what.

I was sitting in Global Studies, my sophomore year, as Griffin and I were talking about the up-coming lacrosse season and spring soccer, while the teacher was teaching us about the colonization of Africa. We probably should have been paying attention a little better. Most of it went in one ear and out the other. I asked Griffin, “So, is there anyone new joining the travel team this spring?” He must not have heard me at first, but I made sure to get his attention by throwing a piece of paper at his head. That seemed to work. I asked him again.

“I don’t think so man, just the same guys. We lost our keeper though. He decided to focus on track this year,” he replied. We both thought that was pretty dumb, but before we could start talking about who might be a good replacement, we heard the familiar voice of the loud speaker, but it wasn’t the usual message, like, “Mason, please go to the guidance office.” It was a little more alarming…

What we heard instead shocked us all: “Due to the alarming increase of Covid-19, Erskine Academy will be closed starting tomorrow for two weeks. During the two weeks, we advise you all to stay quarantined in hopes of slowing the spread. We wish all of you good health, and hopefully we will see you soon.” Griffin and I immediately looked at each other, with the same blank expression, like we had just seen a ghost. Little did we know, this wouldn’t only put a hold on our sports seasons, but our lives as a whole.

I went home that day with my older sister Reece. We exchanged just a few quick comments on the otherwise quiet ride home. We both rushed inside to tell my mum the news we had heard at school. She told us to look at it as a positive, but that it would mean that we couldn’t see our friends, and for me it meant I couldn’t see my girlfriend, Sam, for at least two weeks. Luckily for me, I had just gotten my license, so from time to time I drove over to Sam’s house and talked for a while from my car. For two weeks that’s how it was. Boring, but bearable.

We just got worse news after that. Covid had gotten so bad, that school would be closed for the entire rest of the school year. So, I finished the last months of the school year online, having little to no interaction with my friends. Getting bored and depressed, I hated thinking about how much longer everything would be on hold. Months went by. Luckily, by mid-summer, I had gotten a job, which distracted me for nine hours of the day, and provided me with a little enjoyment and something for which to look forward.

Then excitement came in the form of protest. After the death of George Floyd, millions of enraged Americans took to the streets to protest the racism of certain people and certain systems of government. Taking part in these events cured me of any sort of quarantine slump. I started to look forward to hearing about what was going on, and seeing how I could make an impact.

And finally, now, with my junior soccer season over and school halfway back to normal, it seems as though history might repeat itself. Covid cases begin to spike again, school closed once, winter sports are questionable, businesses are starting to close, again. Meanwhile, I’m just thinking to myself, “Here we go again. Ready for round two?”

Student Writer’s Program: What Is It?

The Town Line has many articles from local students under the heading of the “Student Writer’s Program.” While it may seem plainly evident why The Town Line would pursue this program with local schools and students, we think it’s worth the time to highlight the reasons why we enthusiastically support this endeavor.

Up front, the program is meant to offer students who have a love of writing a venue where they can be published and read in their community. We have specifically not provided topics for the students to write on or about, and we have left the editing largely up to their teachers. From our perspective this is a free form space provided to students.

From the perspective of the community, what is the benefit? When considering any piece that should or could be published, this is a question we often ask ourselves at The Town Line. The benefit is that we as community are given a glimpse into how our students see the world, what concerns them, and, maybe even possible solutions to our pressing problems. Our fundamental mission at the paper is to help us all better understand and appreciate our community, our state, and our nation through journalism and print.

We hope you will read these articles with as much interest and enjoyment as we do. The students are giving us a rare opportunity to hear them out, to peer into their world, and see how they are processing this world we, as adults, are giving them.

To include your high school, contact The Town Line, townline@townline.org.

STUDENT WRITERS: Negative Effects of Toxic Masculinity

STUDENT WRITERS PROGRAM
This week featuring: ERSKINE ACADEMY

by Adam Oches
(from Vassalboro, Maine)

The negative effects of various media like television and movies on women and young girls have rightfully been shown time and again. The negative effects on men from these same forms of media is a much lesser known, but no less real, phenomenon. Media is filled with images of unrealistic body standards and the glorification of unhealthy behaviors. Media has negative effects on men that greatly damage the self-image of males in today’s society.

Many movies and television shows with male leads often have men with very muscular bodies on camera consistently. Action heroes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chris Hemsworth, and Hugh Jackman are all well known for their muscular definition and physical fitness. The average movie male lead has a level of fitness that requires the strict regimentation of diet and exercise that the majority of people will be unable to achieve. These unrealistic standards that require these measures are already a problem, but the superhero look has another problem to it. It is unsustainable.

In preparation for shirtless scenes in the show The Witcher, Henry Cavill had to dehydrate himself for multiple days in order to attain the look wanted for the scene. Bodybuilders, like the aforementioned Schwarzenegger, dehydrate themselves to reduce their fat percentage. This practice is lethal if sustained for any kind of long period of time. It even has the high possibility of being fatal in a short period of time. In 1992, professional bodybuilder Mohammed Benaziza died after competing in a contest from dehydration-induced heart failure.

Stoicism is a philosophy originating with the ancient Greeks. It advocates for mastery of the self through the control of one’s emotions. This idea is not inherently harmful, however it can quickly lead to repressed emotions and the effects those have on mental health. This philosophy has embedded itself into our society’s ideal man. In various action movies, the main character does not cry. He does not show grief. His emotions are kept to himself and are not shown to the outside world.

Since these strong, manly men do not cry; crying must be a sign of weakness. Any sign of sadness is to be shunned and kept in the dark for fear of being exposed as a weaker, lesser man. Society has convinced itself that in order to be a man, they must face all challenges and hardships without showing pain or asking for help. Our media has perpetuated this idea. Its effects are very clear. Young men face pain alone and are afraid to ask for help to alleviate some of their pain. This can lead to the abuse of chemicals like alcohol, a negative self-image, and in the worst of cases, suicide.

In conclusion, the media we consume in our daily lives has had negative impacts on the wellbeing of generations of young men. Too often is the issue of the media’s portrayal of people seen as based on sex. This is not a women’s issue or a men’s issue; it is a people issue. Media has affected both sexes negatively. The problem with media is not its portrayal of women or men, it is with people in general.

Student Writer’s Program: What Is It?

The Town Line has many articles from local students under the heading of the “Student Writer’s Program.” While it may seem plainly evident why The Town Line would pursue this program with local schools and students, we think it’s worth the time to highlight the reasons why we enthusiastically support this endeavor.

Up front, the program is meant to offer students who have a love of writing a venue where they can be published and read in their community. We have specifically not provided topics for the students to write on or about, and we have left the editing largely up to their teachers. From our perspective this is a free form space provided to students.

From the perspective of the community, what is the benefit? When considering any piece that should or could be published, this is a question we often ask ourselves at The Town Line. The benefit is that we as community are given a glimpse into how our students see the world, what concerns them, and, maybe even possible solutions to our pressing problems. Our fundamental mission at the paper is to help us all better understand and appreciate our community, our state, and our nation through journalism and print.

We hope you will read these articles with as much interest and enjoyment as we do. The students are giving us a rare opportunity to hear them out, to peer into their world, and see how they are processing this world we, as adults, are giving them.

To include your high school, contact The Town Line, townline@townline.org.

STUDENT WRITERS: Negative Effects of Toxic Masculinity

STUDENT WRITERS PROGRAM
This week featuring: ERSKINE ACADEMY

by Autumn Boody
(from Washington, Maine)

“The constellation of socially regressive [masculine] traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence.” That is the definition of toxic masculinity used by Journal of School of Psychology, but it is noted that this definition can change due to the complexity of the issue. Toxic masculinity is a phenomenon that plagues our culture and society. Toxic masculinity is negative because it can lead to aggression, repressed emotions, and psychological trauma.

Aggression in males is not an unusual phenomenon. Men and boys of all ages can demonstrate different types of aggression including: physical aggression, verbal aggression, and sexual aggression. Toxic masculinity is a large contributing factor to this. Part of the stereotype of masculinity is being strong and unemotional. Trying to keep up with both of those can lead to bottling up your feelings and becoming aggressive.

Similar stereotypes are being dominant and assertive, which can easily lead to sexual aggression. When in a relationship, specifically heterosexual relationships, the male may feel that he cannot have emotions and that he has to be the dominant figure in the relationship. There are direct ties from this to sexual assault and harassment. Promundo, an organization that focuses a lot of their work on toxic masculinity, says, “Young men who believe in these toxic ideas of manhood most strongly were most likely to have ever perpetuated sexual harassment.” Some examples the young men said were, “Guys should act strong even when they’re scared or nervous,” and even said things like, “Real men would never say no to sex.” These extreme ideals have led to aggression in all forms, proving their toxicity.

One of the aforementioned stereotypes was suppressing one’s emotions. This has many side effects of its own. Not allowing yourself to feel and cry when necessary can lead to higher amounts of stress, larger depression rates in men, and substance abuse. While substance abuse is more visible, with about 9.4 percent of men over the age of 12 struggling with it, depression isn’t so easy to see. Men with depression are four times more likely to commit suicide. Along with the oppressive symptoms of depressions, suppressing your emotions can make it harder to deal with stress. When you never let out what you’re truly feeling it’s easy to let things bottle up. When you have all these things bottled up you implode much quicker.

The last of the effects of toxic masculinity is psychological trauma. The influence of toxic masculinity can not only come from society but also inside the home. Many men experience their first struggles with toxic masculinity from their parents or relatives. Fathers telling them to toughen up and not “act like a girl” or encouraging degrading words and ideals. This can be damaging to their mental health as they get older. They are faced with the conflicts of what they’re feeling and what they’re told to feel. As many studies and therapists will attest, it’s incredibly difficult to undo that damage that has been done. Once you’ve grown up with the pressure and toxicity it isn’t easy to reverse.

Toxic masculinity is a negative, oppressive phenomenon that not only affects men but also everyone around them. Toxic masculinity is negative because it can lead to aggression, repressed emotions, and psychological trauma.

Student Writer’s Program: What Is It?

The Town Line has many articles from local students under the heading of the “Student Writer’s Program.” While it may seem plainly evident why The Town Line would pursue this program with local schools and students, we think it’s worth the time to highlight the reasons why we enthusiastically support this endeavor.

Up front, the program is meant to offer students who have a love of writing a venue where they can be published and read in their community. We have specifically not provided topics for the students to write on or about, and we have left the editing largely up to their teachers. From our perspective this is a free form space provided to students.

From the perspective of the community, what is the benefit? When considering any piece that should or could be published, this is a question we often ask ourselves at The Town Line. The benefit is that we as community are given a glimpse into how our students see the world, what concerns them, and, maybe even possible solutions to our pressing problems. Our fundamental mission at the paper is to help us all better understand and appreciate our community, our state, and our nation through journalism and print.

We hope you will read these articles with as much interest and enjoyment as we do. The students are giving us a rare opportunity to hear them out, to peer into their world, and see how they are processing this world we, as adults, are giving them.

To include your high school, contact The Town Line, townline@townline.org.

STUDENT WRITERS – Examining “The Social Dilemma”: The real impact on young people

STUDENT WRITERS PROGRAM
This week featuring: ERSKINE ACADEMY

by Olivia Bourque of Vassalboro, Maine
Erskine Academy Junior

It is truly paradoxical that a generation has been raised to be enthralled by inventions detrimental to their mental health and wellbeing. A Netflix documentary, The Social Dilemma, addresses the evolution of and dangers of social media, an enigma and issue growing exponentially along with the minds of young adults. Simply stated, exposure to harsh and unfiltered content on social media harms teens’ self esteem, while captivating them with unlimited information tailored to their wants and interests. Software smarter than anyone and worth millions of dollars generates a feed of suggested content to keep everyone mindlessly engrossed, though this software was never created to improve the mental state of the person behind the screen, but rather to make some people an enormous amounts of money.

An embellished version of this enchantment is demonstrated with a teenage boy, a standard social media app, and a fictional group of people controlling his suggested feed (replacing the job of designated software for this purpose). At the beginning of the documentary, this group of people keeping the teenage boy actively swiping seems innovative, although the boy’s family and friends blatantly express their concern and frustration with his obsession. Any parent of a child with a smartphone would likely wholeheartedly confirm this aggravation, as these apps truly are addicting. This is expected, however, especially with the knowledge that machines present users with content hand-selected for their amusement.

As the film continues, the people controlling the teenage boy’s suggested feed and notifications slowly come to the epiphany that their job is not in the best interest of the user whom they’re supposed to keep engaged. Though this was a satisfying ending, it is unrealistic, as these groups of people are actually machines, incapable of understanding human emotions, actually observing how its work affects their users, and finally does not have the power to discontinue their work. With this, society does not have anyone to rely on to contain this mass craze, and therefore we must come to this revelation on our own.

In a smaller part of The Social Dilemma, a teenage girl represents a massive demographic of those whose mental health and self esteem is at jeopardy; she is also spending far too much time scrolling through content tailored to her, and along the way she begins to compare herself to others, instilling unrealistic expectations for herself. Like this girl, many young adults question their worth once they see what the ideal woman or man should look like through a series of heavily edited pictures.

This can often lead to numerous mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Instead of taking away social media’s power to contort self-image, the girl responds to this insecurity by fixing her hair, makeup, and lighting, finding the perfect filter, and posting a picture of herself attempting to conform with current beauty standards.

This backfires on her when she receives mean comments online about her ears. From this, her self-esteem plummets, and she does everything in her power to cover her ears. Not only does this teenager unknowingly succumb to temptation of handpicked material online, but she also alters her emotional state as a result. This enforces the idea that a generation of self-destructive slaves to the internet are being created, and it’s almost unavoidable.

Student Writer’s Program: What Is It?

The Town Line has published the first in what we hope will be many articles from local students under the heading of the “Student Writer’s Program.” While it may seem plainly evident why The Town Line would pursue this program with local schools and students, we think it’s worth the time to highlight the reasons why we enthusiastically support this endeavor.

Up front, the program is meant to offer students who have a love of writing a venue where they can be published and read in their community. We have specifically not provided topics for the students to write on or about, and we have left the editing largely up to their teachers. From our perspective this is a free form space provided to students.

From the perspective of the community, what is the benefit? When considering any piece that should or could be published, this is a question we often ask ourselves at The Town Line. The benefit is that we as community are given a glimpse into how our students see the world, what concerns them, and, maybe even possible solutions to our pressing problems. Our fundamental mission at the paper is to help us all better understand and appreciate our community, our state, and our nation through journalism and print.

We hope you will read these articles with as much interest and enjoyment as we do. The students are giving us a rare opportunity to hear them out, to peer into their world, and see how they are processing this world we, as adults, are giving them.

To include your high school, contact The Town Line, townline@townline.org.

STUDENT WRITERS: So what? The real impact on young people

STUDENT WRITERS PROGRAM
This week featuring: ERSKINE ACADEMY

by Hannah Soule, Vassalboro

We all have bad days. Maybe your cat got run over or maybe the jelly in your PB and J sandwich made the bread way too soggy for the desired taste of the sandwich, or maybe you’ve had your head in your screen all day. I find myself having days where I ponder life more than others, where I come up with incredibly insane situations that I would never be in, and then I find myself having days where it kills me to tear my eyes away from my screen for two seconds. Social media is a disease that is being spread upon the youth. Many teens are struggling to find motivation and purpose. Very engaging and authentic opening paragraph, with a clear thesis!

The day I was handed my iPhone was the day my life changed. I stopped being the carefree child that didn’t have a care in the world. I was consumed with dark thoughts. I now had voices in my head making me second guess if my picture was pretty enough, if someone would say something about my imperfections, and if I needed to lose a little extra weight because I didn’t look like the supermodels that would pop up in my ads. My care-free spirit suddenly started to care. That’s what’s happening to our youth. If you hand your child a smartphone, it’s not a matter of if they will become consumed with darkness, it’s the matter of when. Wow!

Growing up a girl, all eyes are now on you and how you mature. I personally hear it all the time, “ oh wow Hannah, it looks like you have lost weight.” or “ Hannah, you look so different”, as if they are looking for these things the second I arrive in their presence, but for a few minutes you have the gladdening thought of the comment. Social media, however, can take this comment too far; all of a sudden the need for compliments takes over and you find yourself googling how to lose weight or how to be prettier. No girl should have to go through the expectations that society puts out for us. All of this could be avoided if the unfair comparison between teenagers and supermodels stopped. 72% of all teens use Instagram daily. This data is scary because that is 72% of the youth being brainwashed everyday.

Sixty-nine percent of children have their own devices by the age of 12, which was a 41% increase from 2015. The problem keeps growing and won’t stop. Smartphones were introduced in 2007 and from 2010 to 2015 visits to doctors regarding depression jumped nearly 30%. Now, I know it is hard to believe that social media causes depression. It is not a direct cause, however, it is a major contribution.

Technology is killing kids’ sense of adventure and their creative wavelengths. Sure, you may think that your kid has it under control because they still get active. For example, they will walk your dog (yay, exercise) but soon enough the whole world knows that your little Susie took old sparky for a walk. Parents now observe children with their eyes gleaned (Glued?) to a screen instead of drawing a picture or playing with friends.

Social media is causing kids’ minds to alter completely. Thirty years ago the biggest worry in parents’ minds was if their kids were going to eat a worm at recess; today the biggest worry in a parents mind is if their child will be a victim of this darkness that consumes young teens. Social media causes so much hate and discontent that we can’t experience the joys of walking alone at night or leaving the house in the morning and making it back just in time for dinner. This is a problem that will become out of hand if we do not take action today.

Student Writer’s Program: What Is It?

The Town Line has published the first in what we hope will be many articles from local students under the heading of the “Student Writer’s Program.” While it may seem plainly evident why The Town Line would pursue this program with local schools and students, I think it’s worth the time to highlight the reasons why we enthusiastically support this endeavor.

Up front, the program is meant to offer students who have a love of writing a venue where they can be published and read in their community. We have specifically not provided topics for the students to write on or about, and we have left the editing largely up to their teachers. From our perspective this is a free form space provided to students.

From the perspective of the community, what is the benefit? When considering any piece that should or could be published, this is a question we often ask ourselves at The Town Line. The benefit is that we as community are given a glimpse into how our students see the world, what concerns them, and, maybe even possible solutions to our pressing problems. Our fundamental mission at the paper is to help us all better understand and appreciate our community, our state, and our nation through journalism and print.

We hope you will read these articles with as much interest and enjoyment as we do. The students are giving us a rare opportunity to hear them out, to peer into their world, and see how they are processing this world we, as adults, are giving them.

To include your high school, contact The Town Line, townline@townline.org.

STUDENT WRITERS: Tribalism in American Politics

STUDENT WRITERS PROGRAM
This week featuring: ERSKINE ACADEMY

by Grace Kelso

Tribalism is the behavior and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group. Tribalism is a natural part of human behavior that can be seen in all aspects of life. More now than ever, we are seeing strong tribalism in American politics. We are seeing evidence of this when people favor policy proposals from their party and disapprove of proposals from the other party based purely on party and not facts or soundness of policies, or when people only make friends with people from their own party. This essay explains where we see tribalism in American politics.

One example of tribalism in American politics is through reactive devaluation bias. Reactive devaluation bias is the tendency to value the proposal of someone we recognized as an antagonist as being less interesting than if it were made by someone else. An example of this could be found in Daniel Stalder’s article, “Tribalism in Politics” published in Psychology Today in June, 18th, 2018. According to Stalder, Republican Senator, George Vionovich, said, “If he [Obama] was for it, we had to be against it.” This means that even if one of Barack Obama’s policies, or a policy that he was in support of, were very beneficial to the American people, George Vionochich and his Republican colleagues would not support it. This is a clear example of reactive devaluation bias. It is not just Republicans who are guilty of reactive devaluation bias. A study called “Party over Policy” found that when liberal college students were told about a welfare proposal, they were not opposed to it, and some were in favor of it. When they were told that the policy was proposed by Republicans and was not supported by Democrats, their opinions changed. Most of the students were no longer in favor of the policy proposal, according to the same Psychology Today article.

Another example of tribalism in American politics is how it can be seen affecting our social lives. Tribalism based on our political beliefs occurs in how we perceive the people around us and with whom we are in relationships. To put it simply, we treat people with the same political views more favorably than we do people with opposing political views.

A political scientist named Shanto Iyengar has done a lot of research into how political tribalism plays a role in our social life. He found that the percentage of married couples that came from the same party had grown from two-thirds in the 1960’s and 70’s to close to 90 percent today. A survey done in the 1960’s found that only 5 percent of partisans would mind if their son or daughter were in a relationship with someone of the opposite party. This seemed like an irrelevant question at the time. In 2010, the same question was asked for a YouGov Poll and found that 49 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats would be somewhat or very upset if their son or daughter were in a relationship with someone of the opposite party.

Today, the political party you align yourself with is not just a choice, but an identity. This is seen when people approve of policy proposals from their own party and disapprove of those from the opposing party and when people do not want to be friends with someone from the other party. These are examples of tribalism. America is facing a lot of challenges and we need to be united now more than ever, but why do we still have trouble working with the other side? Maybe we are too egotistical, or maybe we don’t want to seem like hypocrites for agreeing with the opposing party. Only after we get rid of our “us versus them” complex can we make some meaningful change.

Student Writer’s Program: What Is It?

The Town Line has published the first in what we hope will be many articles from local students under the heading of the “Student Writer’s Program.” While it may seem plainly evident why The Town Line would pursue this program with local schools and students, I think it’s worth the time to highlight the reasons why we enthusiastically support this endeavor.

Up front, the program is meant to offer students who have a love of writing a venue where they can be published and read in their community. We have specifically not provided topics for the students to write on or about, and we have left the editing largely up to their teachers. From our perspective this is a free form space provided to students.

From the perspective of the community, what is the benefit? When considering any piece that should or could be published, this is a question we often ask ourselves at The Town Line. The benefit is that we as community are given a glimpse into how our students see the world, what concerns them, and, maybe even possible solutions to our pressing problems. Our fundamental mission at the paper is to help us all better understand and appreciate our community, our state, and our nation through journalism and print.

We hope you will read these articles with as much interest and enjoyment as we do. The students are giving us a rare opportunity to hear them out, to peer into their world, and see how they are processing this world we, as adults, are giving them.

To include your high school, contact The Town Line, townline@townline.org.