Image courtesy of: Andrew Wilson
Welcome back to the hub #ECI831‘s!
The above comic sort of sum’s up my initial feelings on a lot of social media activism…but, I shouldn’t let myself get ahead of myself, first, what is social media activism? Overall, it is using social media and the internet to get information out quickly and effectively and in this case, to spread a message or cause for the better good of a certain group. I stumbled across an excellent PDF that does a great job summarizing a lot of these explanations, Digital-Activism-and-Non-Violent-Conflict, in this article, Edwards, Howard and Joyce say a digital activism campaign is “an organized public effort, making collective claims on a target authority, in which civic initiators or supporters use digital media.” So if we know what social activism is, the opposite is social “slaktivism”. Social slaktivism is, according to a wikipedia definition, “showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism.” Otherwise known as armchair warriors or people who like or share aspects of social activism but don’t actually do anything past that in supporting or moving the cause forward.
Image courtesy of: spiritofrebellion
Now that we have that formality out of the way, what does this actually mean in the society we live in today? My wonder is, are the social activists actually making a difference in the real world or is it just loads and loads of attention and reach online? Also, are there positives with just those things alone? I’m tossed up on this idea because so far based on some of the campaigns I have seen, aside from awareness and getting people talking, what else are they doing? I appreciate, respect and value the conversations that have come about with the hashtags such as #bringbackourgirls, #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, etc. but the problems that these campaigns are fighting for, are still enormous issues and it appears that so far, the hashtags aren’t solving them. The social issues that these online activist are taking on are big, they’re big and they’re important and I think these hashtags and conversations are incredibly important, unfortunately I think it’s not enough.
When we think back to Kony 2012 or The Ice Bucket Challenge for ASL research, both could be considered some of the first viral activist campaigns that generated millions of viewers and some social “uproar” however, it isn’t good enough anymore to have a one-hit-wonder, if we want real social and world change we need to focus on creating campaigns that have staying power. If we want meaningful and worthwhile campaigns they need to be organized, have strong leadership and be able to use resources and people-power to their best and most efficient uses. There is a term deemed, “mission creep” that more or less means that if a project is too broad and unfocused it won’t have said staying power and therefore is not relevant for a long enough time to be meaningful. If goals can be small and achievable, or at least broken into smaller and more achievable pieces you have a much better chance of changing peoples mindsets long term and seeing goals met. This week in class we spoke about the vagueness of the Kony campaign and how it was “a call to action” but it didn’t really say what the viewer was supposed to do, where they were suppose to do it and aside from bringing awareness and encouraging viewers to write to their leaders, it wasn’t specific and therefore not as effective as it could have been.
It was recently exposed that former head of The Regina Sexual Assault Center had been embezzling money to the tune of more than $700,000 and has now been charged and sentenced to 3 years in jail for taking the money from the non-profit. The reason I bring this up, is the fact that it proves the immense power of good organization and proper leaders in bringing awareness and funding to non-profits and social change. There are so many good movements and resources that still carry the potential for disaster – not only did this women take money from this particular non-profit, but she took money from all the men and women that visit and need the center, she took money from all the other sexual assault organizations that now will have people questioning their intentions, etc. It is sad that we even have to have stories such as this one when speaking about all the good that non-profits and social movements intend to accomplish.
Overall in this area, I have to remain fairly wishy-washy. I love the idea of social activism, I love the idea of the conversation and the wide spread audiences that you wouldn’t be able to reach in any other way, however, I worry that it’s not enough on it’s own. We need to back and support the hashtags, the groups, the conversations with real, concrete support through money and rallies and action.
Next sticky situation…Is it possible to have constructive conversations about social justice online – in short terms, in my opinion, no. GIF courtesy of!
What is inevitable, is this meme…internet fights galore! People have their opinions and they are especially not shy in sharing them when they have a computer screen to protect them.