By David O’Connor
During the last weekend in April, videos circulated online of a large gathering of young people in Salthill.
This was met with widespread condemnation on the internet, and it quickly garnered an atmosphere akin to a witch hunt.
People were calling for the youths present at the gathering to be kicked out of college for breaking guidelines.
One account caught my eye as they wished all present to get Covid, recover, but suffer long-term effects from the illness.
It’s a good thing that those who reside on the internet are not judge, jury, and executioner in our society.
I went out to Salthill to speak with residents and pedestrians in person about what occurred there.
The response was shocking. Shocking because, after being saturated with opinions from the internet, the people of Salthill had the opposite sentiment.
People were very understanding about the whole affair.
Granted, they would rather if it had not have happened, but they sympathised with all the youths and the struggles they have had to encounter over the past 12 months.
Aware that it has not been easy for the students that have had a college experience snatched from them.
It was acknowledged that they needed an outlet to enjoy themselves and reminded me that it wasn’t the end of the world, we were all young once.
The finger is often pointed towards students when one hears rumblings of house parties going on in Galway.
One might say that only those who haven’t broken any of the Covid guidelines set out for us should be able to vehemently criticise those breaking them.
It’s just such a shame that those virtuous guardians exist in the virtual sphere.
However, the biggest party that I’ve witnessed over the last year took place across Zoom.
The Hump Day Hoolie is a social event organised by the NUI Galway Students’ Union in an attempt to bring people together and make friends.
On one hand it’s nice to see people happy and connecting again. While on the other, it’s sad to see that this is the height of mixing among the younger generations of society.
Students in their room, alone, smiling into the camera. Yet, social media would have you believe that they are the problem.
It can be hard to take. Spending a lot of time on the internet because there is little else to do, and all you see is people giving out about how you’re not following the rules.
It’s important to remember that we’re not as divided as the internet would have us believe.
One could argue that this is another pandemic that we face. As apathy seeps from the virtual world into the real one.
The internet has its place and its uses, but we must remember that they are real life people that we are passing judgement on.
People that have a rich tapestry of life stories behind them.
If students continue to feel like they are being treated with such contempt by the rest of society, how much of it can they take before alienation sets in?
When it is being made clear that they are not accepted by society, they may eventually not want to be.
There could be a mass emigration in the coming years from the younger sections of society, as they go in search of another home that does not look down on them with disdain.
Then, who will we blame our problems on?
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