EDITOR’S COLUMN: I feel failed by the US government

Hosting videos about any topic under the sun, from books to baking, news to nature or whatever your heart desires, a single tap can transport you into a world of creativity and entertainment. Yet, despite its allure, TikTok faced challenge in Congress last week due to security concerns held by the US government.

While this was happening, nearly 600,000 Americans were experiencing homelessness, according to the New York Times, roughly 10% of Americans were facing food insecurity, according to the US Department of Agriculture and over 40 million people are being crippled by an average of nearly $40,000 in student loan debt, according to the Education Data Initiative. I could go on and on about climate change, all of the inequity that women, minorities and the LGBTQ+ constantly face or the fact that healthcare costs are out of control, but I believe my point is clear.

I gather that change in any of these areas won’t happen overnight. Still, it’s disheartening to instead watch five hours of Congresspeople asking questions that don’t make sense about an issue they can’t seem to articulate. Women have lost federal protection for abortion care, yet Congress is spending its time debating security concerns they didn’t have until two years after TikTok was purchased by ByteDance.

Trans people are under attack nationwide, but the concern of Congress lies in whether or not TikTok measures the dilation of users’ pupils. It just stings to know what’s wrong in this country and to watch our elected governing body spending its time meandering around an issue that was solved nearly a year ago when ByteDance transferred US user data to Oracle servers inside the US with backups in Singapore.

Make no mistake. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t be doing something about the effects social media has on us, or the companies potentially misusing our data or even ensuring young children stay off the apps. I suggest that the government use its time wisely and examine social media as a whole, as it’s clear to me this has strayed past concerns of US user data being safe, accessible by foreign governments or stored offshore.

I’m frustrated that I feel I can’t trust my government to act in my best interest. I’m frustrated that issues that should be nonpartisan have become so polarizing they just fall by the wayside due to gridlock and that they’re spending their time in a way that, to me as a constituent, looks incredibly wasteful. But what frustrates me most is that we even need to be having these conversations in 2023.

This is a reminder I hope you’ll heed: your elected officials work for you. Their job is to best represent the beliefs of those who elected them, and if you’re ever unhappy with what they’re doing or they’re not keeping their word, you have the right to let them know how you feel about it. This week I felt inclined to share my feelings.

If you ever want to get in touch with the people that represent you, it’s as easy as going to house.gov or senate.gov and entering your zip code or state at the top. This will show you your representatives and their contact info. Give them a call or send them an email and let them know how you feel. They quite literally employ people just to communicate with you. Take advantage of it. Democracy doesn’t have to stop at the ballot box, folks.