In the wake of the Paris Attacks in November 2015, there was a lot of talk about whose lives matter, the information we are fed by the media and what we care about as a result. The whole discussion exhausted the hell out of me. Of course, I had opinions about it, I always do. But I choose not to share them as often on social media because I don't want to deal with the time-consuming fray from my online community and their diverse opinions and backgrounds (that's a whole other discussion).
Regardless of what I think about how tragedy and loss are reported, the fact remains that there is an overwhelming amount of violence and hatred in the world right now. I'm sure most people would agree that this is not ideal. I'm a solution-oriented person above all. So the idea that we are all sitting on our asses arguing whose lives matter while the world goes up in flames is extremely disconcerting to me.
I don't believe denouncing social media activism is necessarily the way to go and here's why...
Something is better than nothing.
How many of the people who are sharing and spreading information on social media would actually go out and do something about it if there were no Facebook? In other words, before social media became so pervasive and people didn't have access to it as a means of spreading information and ideas, were social media activists out in the streets getting results? I doubt it. It's more likely that they were not involved at all.
Yes, this is a new generation so many of them don't know the world without Facebook activism and it can, therefore, be argued that they could be learning social media activism as if it is a viable form of change. That is dangerous. But overall, I think that the number of people who are more likely to talk about shit and do nothing has not necessarily grown just because they've been given a platform on the internet and, if it has grown, it is not significant.
Think about it. 15 years ago, social media activists were the people who were reading the newspaper and arguing with their coworkers about politics. Or they were the ones who watched CNN 24/7 while on the phone with their relatives in other states arguing about the news (my stepfather still does this). The people who are most likely to talk about shit and not do anything are always going to be around.
As such, the people who are more apt to do things will always have that drive. Social media activists won't change that. If anything, social media gives voice to the people who may not have been heard before because they were just talking to friends and family instead of the World Wide Web. They serve a purpose. They create a buzz around topics. They give us greater insight into what the world is thinking about. The conversations that they create are, at times, invaluable. Even the worst kind, where people spew hatred and ignorance, give us insight into how much work we have to do.
I venture to state that all of the people on the internet that we are tired of hearing from have always existed:
- self-righteous black folk
- self-righteous christian folk
- ignorant-ass white supremacists
- liberal-ass, guilty white people who think they know everybody's struggle
- Clueless-ass white people who don't know and don't care about anybody's struggles
- and the list goes on and on
The difference is just that we are hearing more voices now. These people have computers and smartphones and tablets etc. They have a stage. They have an open mic. They have a soapbox. When you sign into Facebook, what does it ask you?
"What's on your mind?"
You think that is coincidental? You think those fuckers really care about you? You think Mark Zuckerberg is trying to be your therapist? Hell to the naw! Facebook is set up as a big worldwide discussion. It's pretty ingenious actually. Over the years, Facebook has redesigned itself to go from a shallow social network where you could cyber stalk your ex or that bitch from high school that used to act like her shit didn't stink to a real-time worldwide roundtable discussion about whatever issues people deem significant. Look at all the things that they have put in place to facilitate these discussions.
Do you honestly think that this hasn't been engineered? Look at every online article. It gives you the opportunity to share via Facebook et al. I don't have to go searching for news anymore. Facebook is my primary source of information. You know how I found out about the Paris attacks? "Facebook Safety Check" told me that two of my friends (whom I didn't even know were in Paris) were safe. Naturally, I was like, "safe from what?" and I quickly found out what had happened.
Facebook has totally changed the way we learn about, comment on and react to the world around us. We can sit and argue about how that has affected our action or inaction but I think it's shortsighted and silly to blame social networks for the apathy that has existed among human beings since the beginning of time. Let's focus on how we can use the tools of social media to be better activists. After all, the word "activism," by definition, consists of action.
And while sharing, encouraging and denouncing things via Facebook is a sort of activism as it can help educate and arouse the population to make change, we all know that it takes more than discussion to truly address the problems we face. Therefore, how do we make the next step from social media activism to actual activism? How do we transtition to physical action? Let's talk about it on Facebook, where I'll share this blogpost. See how I did that?