This week’s focus, digital activism, was especially interesting to me. Like many people in this day and age, I’m pretty heavily influenced by social media and have found it to be a regular part of my daily life. Whether I’m logging on to Facebook or scrolling through Instagram, checking up on trending Tweets or going on the front page of Reddit, I’m being exposed to the opinions, thoughts, and feelings of everyone else. Personally, I think this is awesome! We now have access to all of this knowledge and connectivity that even ten years ago wasn’t as complete as it is today. But that’s pretty much where my consideration of its effect had stopped before this week’s assignment. Tackling the idea of digital activism as a whole movement was kind of new to me and taught me that I had taken the activism I’d witnessed for granted.
Teens, in particular, are embracing digital activism as it’s given them a previously unprecedented outlet. As mentioned in the Teen Vogue article, what we picture as traditional activism (pickets, rallies, physical protests) has now joined forces with an online presence. Populations who previously didn’t have the privilege of having a voice now do. Online communities for support and the swapping of ideas have now become the norm. Because of this, the younger generations are having a bigger influence on activism than ever before.
The effectiveness of this activism is up for debate. Their have been so many movements that were born from a hashtag or gained attention from a blog post. The #BlackLivesMatter movement is a shining example of many people coming together for a common cause across multiple platforms. However, I can also see the point of view of those who are more cynical of this newfound activism. Some make the point that there is a “bandwagon” affect and people are only joining certain activist efforts because it is the new thing to do. Others complain that sharing a post or liking something on Facebook isn’t effective enough to be considered activism. In my opinion, I think that’s not entirely true. To me, digital activism is the “real world’s” problems just amplified in a digital matter. Those who are only interested in popular digital activism causes because they’re “in” would probably act similarly in other situations. No, the single act of reblogging something doesn’t make the problem go away. It does, however, raise awareness. Awareness is the first step to action.
Personally, I haven’t had much direct involvement in digital activism. I find myself getting fired up and occasionally sharing things on Facebook, only to have to defend my beliefs in a very public forum. I’m a big fan of debate, but sometimes I think online debates (election-based conversations are coming to mind right now) take on a bit of a circular pattern and I just find myself getting frustrated. I guess I could say that I am involved in digital activism as I use online platforms to keep myself informed on current issues. I was always raised to never immediately believe everything I read, so I enjoy picking various sources for my information and comparing it as it comes in.
With a relatively new idea like digital activism, we will have to wait and see how it shapes the future of activism. Some effects are immediately apparent, though I suspect we will see some more latent ones down the road. For me, the key issues are this:
- Are we intelligently participating in digital activism? Are our sources reliable, are we choosing our battles wisely, etc…
- Digital Activism is providing an amazing opportunity for younger online users to have a voice. This is hands down a positive result.
- There are “broad, but finite” uses for digital activism, which we must hone in on.
I found this module exciting because I think it’s particularly relevant right now. America is abuzz with election season, and it’s almost impossible to not get sucked into what we see on our feeds. I think responsible digital activism requires a decent balance between mindfulness, restraint, and a desire to better our world through an online format. Reflecting on this topic has made me reconsider my participation (or lack thereof) in digital activism and how it affects me.
PCC: Toban B.