Innovating Activism through Social Media

I think this post is fitting given the new topics this blog will cover in the next few months. The posts on this blog will continue to talk about the pervasive influence of popular culture in our lives, particularly the notions of “Girl Power” that a lot of the authors discuss. However, this blog will also start to focus more on feminism, gender in the news, and the growth of activism through social media. So while not completely deviating from the original theme of this blog, new posts will add a new layer to our growing knowledge of feminism, changing notions of femininity and masculinity in our culture, and and the new role technology has played in activism.

Activism can manifest itself in a variety of ways, and one of the most interesting ways technology has changed our world is the way in which people have used it to try to inspire social change. Technology, particularly social media, has given us the opportunity to reach out to people all over the world, and with this comes the great opportunity to exchange ideas. Social media has created a new platform by which people can get their messages out, although the meaning behind those messages and ideas often differ. For example, activists were able to use social media to coordinate protests across Egypt, but even Instagram users took to social media to protest Instagram’s new privacy policy. The way people use social media is different and the impacts are certainly different as well. Social media certainly isn’t the thing causing all those uprisings and protests, but it certainly is facilitating the way in which people organize. In other words, we can’t just say that Twitter and Facebook sent people to the streets. As E.B. Boyd points out in her article, it’s going to take a lot more than a 21st Century version of communication to get people to risk their lives for a social cause. What social media has the potential to offer is speed. Surely given the growing discontent in Egypt, uprisings were inevitable. But social media sped up the process by which they came.

Of course not all activism through social media is created equal. Oftentimes activism through social media can fail to actually mobilize people in the non-virtual world. Take for instance, the concept of “slacktivism.” I think John Conway does a great job in his piece describing the potential for activism through social media to fail. Liking a link on Facebook, or sharing a photo, or signing an online petition isn’t enough. I don’t want to undermine it’s importance, however: getting informed is the first part of fixing any problem. But slacktivists often stop there. In other words, slacktivism itself isn’t terrible, but if we don’t actually act on the information we get online, then we’re doing activism through social media a disservice.

Activism through social media has the potential to do so much, and it’s really up to us to determine how we’re going to use social media as a means to act. Take for instance, these examples of how social media facilitated some uprisings. Those are some of the more extreme examples (uprisings, revolutions, mass protests). We don’t have to start that big. What social media offers us is the chance for our activism to become that big.

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2 thoughts on “Innovating Activism through Social Media

  1. Great post! I completely agree! The biggest issue that I am having with my work in activism is taking an entire tobacco prevention campaign to social media effectively that was started as a face to face training. Most of these “revolts” that you mentioned are individual people (mostly adults) getting behind a single message to progress forward. With prevention it is a little different that it’s hard to get youth that are part of the prevention campaigns to want to share the message on social media with their peers. This is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately and your article helped some 🙂

  2. Looking forward to following your blog! I just joined wordpress and I’m starting a blog with a focus on gender equality and environmental issues. Just did my first post on Slacktivism and its great to see other bloggers looking into the role of social media in the bigger picture.
    Looking forward to the next post! 🙂

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