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The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

The official student newspaper of Walter Johnson High School

The Pitch

What we can learn from Shakespeare about social media

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Photo by Rachael Wolfson
Senior Paulina Horowitz reads “Othello” in Melanie MacFadden’s sixth period AP Literature class. There are parallels to the tragedy’s theme and our society.

This fall, AP Literature students read and studied William Shakespeare’s play “Othello.” While it’s hard to believe that we could ever relate such a tragedy written in Old English to our present day, there are indeed significant similarities between the play and our current society. We all have an “Iago” in our lives that is constantly trying to deceive us. And this Iago is social media. But before I go on, I want to warn readers that this piece will include spoilers of the play, so read at your own risk.

The main character Othello is an outsider, as he’s one of the few if not only Black men in Venice. While he is a noble man and a great warrior, many of the Venetians are racists. This prompts Othello to always try and prove himself in the eyes of others. Throughout the play, he’s fixated on his public persona, which is what makes him so susceptible to the evil that awaits him.

Similarly, on social media platforms, like Instagram, we’re constantly trying to curate our own public personas. While there are a lot of positive uses of social media, there’s a darker side as well. We strive to create a desired image of ourselves when we post things because we want others to think of us highly, even though such posts don’t truly reflect who we are. We try to fit in with others on social media in order to avoid being casted as outsiders. But by doing so, we never take into account our own feelings.

By fixating on what other people think of us, we lose sight of our true selves. Throughout the play Iago uses other characters’ vulnerabilities for his own gain. He uses Desdemona’s good heart and purity, Rodergio’s foolishness and Cassio’s easy charm and trusting nature all to fulfill his plan of convincing Othello that Desdemona and Cassio are having an affair.

Just as Iago uses people’s weaknesses against them, Instagram uses algorithms to suggest posts, reels, videos and ads that we might like, thus luring us into a trap. While yes, it can be entertaining, viewing such pictures and videos posted by other people often makes us jealous. We let Instagram worm its way into our heads, making us think that we have less or aren’t as “good” as other people. As a result, we don’t appreciate the beautiful things we have in our lives, just like Othello didn’t appreciate Desdemona, a woman that was devoted to him.

Desdemona fell in love with Othello because of his mind. She loved him for who he was inside. But Othello becomes blinded from the truth because of the doubt that Iago plants in his mind. Othello trusts and befriends Iago over his own wife. Social media users will often trust Instagram or Facebook more than the loving people in their lives who care for them, thus letting social media define who they are.

At the end of the play, Othello is so consumed with jealousy that he kills Desdemona for being, as Iago convinced him, unfaithful to him. But Othello eventually finds out the truth of how Iago had evilly lied to him. Othello is so devastated when he realizes that he killed his innocent wife who loved him that he takes his very own life.

Social media has led too many people to become deeply depressed for the very same reason Iago caused Othello to take his life. The constant comparisons and lies we let ourselves believe take a toll on the mind. By always trying to look good in every photo, every video and every post, teenagers try to create a false image of themselves that only leads to feelings of isolation.
Even until the very end, Othello was never able to set apart his feelings from his public persona. Before Othello killed himself, he tried to savor every last bit of his image. Othello stated that he wanted people to remember him as the “one that loved not wisely, but too well.” (Shakespeare). We cannot let the Iagos of today’s world — that is, social media — whisper lies in our ears telling us who we are or should be. The tragedy of Othello serves as an invaluable life lesson to love ourselves well and use social media wisely.

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Rachael Wolfson, Print Editor-in-Chief
Rachael Wolfson is currently a senior and this is her third year on The Pitch. During her first two years, Rachael was a Print Opinion Editor and now she is a Print Editor-in-Chief. In addition to The Pitch, Rachael runs on the cross country and track team. She's also the Co-Founder and Co-President of The WJ Gilmore Girls Club. Her two older brothers (Thomas '20 and Alexander '22) also served as Print Editors-in-Chief when they were Wildcats/Madcows (take your pick). Rachael is looking forward to ending the Wolfson Dynasty (2017-2024) on a high note!! 
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