I recently had a peer criticize me for sharing an activist post on Facebook, but not actually doing anything outside of social media about the issue. She complained that so many people think they’re so righteous for sharing content online, but never go the extra mile to do anything about it. Although I was slightly annoyed by her criticism, it made me realize that she had a point. I get all worked up by certain posts, but I never actually take action outside of sharing articles online. So am I really making a difference?
There are so many people that use Facebook and other outlets to promote ways to make a difference. That same peer that I just wrote about, she’s constantly sharing protest events on Facebook to rally support and get more people to attend. She goes out to these events and takes action for a change. I just sit behind my computer and click “Share.” She drafts opinionated posts and updates people on all the great work she’s doing. I just read articles and agree with them.
Social media is a great platform for activists to spread the word and promote their causes. They can blog about their experiences, share charity events and protests, use sites to raise money, create petitions, and spread their thoughts and opinions for the world to see. Because of social media, activism has grown in leaps and bounds, reaching the eyes and ears of more people than ever. However, because Facebook, Twitter, etc., have made activism so widespread, it’s almost too commonplace and too easy to participate. For example, you have people like me who simply read articles and click “Like” or “Share,” yet do nothing further. Reset.org defines this phenomena as ‘slacktivism,’ meaning people don’t really have to do much to engage in activism. The power behind issues can be diffused because rallying behind something can be as simple as clicking a button, which means campaigns are able to spring up one after another without any effort. Topics and trends come and go without seeing any real effect.
Today, as I scroll through Facebook, I notice that every other article on my timeline has to do with Brock Turner, the rapist who received a six month jail sentence. It occurred to me that most of the people who are sharing these articles are in the same boat as me; people sitting at home on their computer who decided to share an article because it made them feel a certain way, even if they plan to do nothing about it. None of us can call ourselves activists, but each and every one of us contributed in some way to exposing this injustice and making people talk about it. The other day, I happened to read an article about a man who raped a woman and got the bare minimum sentence and didn’t think much more of it other than the fact that it made me angry. Overnight, this story became more than just an article that I stumbled across in my timeline; people were writing about and it and sharing it non-stop. I couldn’t log on Facebook without coming across another post about this crime.
The easy “sharing” aspect of social media caused so many people to see this article and share it with their friends. What could have been just another activist post, turned into a trending topic that everyone was talking about. But, then came that hint of guilt because we were all talking about it but who was really doing anything about it? I happened to scroll to the bottom of one of the posts in the comments section and noticed someone had mentioned writing to the judge of the case. On that thread, people were sharing various ways to contact people involved in the case to hopefully try and make a difference. There were so many people pledging to take action and it made me realize this is why we click “Share.”
So, yes, there is more that I could do to take action and make a difference, but I realized when I share a post online, it has more impact than I think. Posting online about a social issue causes more people to take notice of the problem and brings it to the attention of those who will actually act on it. People get more involved when something becomes a trend online, because public figures cannot ignore something that people feel so strongly about. So next time you see a post that evokes some sort of emotion in you, make sure to share it.
Source – Digital and Online Activism, Reset.org: https://en.reset.org/knowledge/digital-and-online-activism