Social media activism is no joke

How online campaigns make a difference

Credit: 
Photo illustration by Josh Granovsky

Social media activism is essentially using the platform of an online forum to lead or support a cause. It’s activism behind a screen.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter often ask their users to engage with different causes through various means, such as liking and sharing posts, uploading pictures and videos or using a specific hashtag. Some of the first ones that come to my mind are the ALS ice bucket challenge, the no makeup selfie and the recently trending Me Too hashtag. 

All of these trending campaigns were or are still currently being used to help promote and raise awareness and funds for various causes in society.

However, many people argue that this form of activism is ineffective and useless, negatively labelling it as “slacktivism.” Often summarized as activism in its laziest form, slacktivists are those who support or spearhead campaigns by doing very little — creating a hashtag or liking a post — in comparison to traditional activists who sacrifice their time, money and in some cases, their safety, in order to support a cause. 

Although many people tend to believe that slacktivism is the only reality of this kind of online advocacy, I disagree with this notion that it’s always ineffective and useless.

Social media has proved to be a powerful tool in giving a voice to people across the world, especially in regards to marginalized groups. Just look at thriving campaigns like Black Lives Matter, a movement that began with a hashtag online and the support of so-called “slacktivists” on social media.

The Black Lives Matter movement began as a hashtag and now “is a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters”, according to the Black Lives Matter website.

The ALS ice bucket challenge, which filled our social media feeds - endless videos of people upending buckets of ice water over their heads, raised $115 million and an additional $13 million was donated to the association’s regional branches. 

I understand many people’s hesitation to call liking a post or using a hashtag activism. It doesn’t seem to require the same dedication as participating in a protest or working hard to raise money for a cause.

But, as a generation that lives on the internet and also relies on social media forums for news, what better way to grab the attention of millennials and raise awareness about a cause than on a platform they spend a scary amount of time on. 

I look at social media activism as a way to increase awareness, start a dialogue and act as a stepping-stone towards further engagement in a cause.

Social media activism and campaigns are effective and have the ability to support and positively benefit important social causes.

However, I think it’s important to realize that there’s a very big difference between traditional and social media activism. 

You’re not a social justice superhero simply because you liked a post on Facebook. 

Despite popular belief, there’s a certain amount of effort and passion that’s still required in order for a social media campaign to garner significant attention and inspire change.

If you use social media activism as a stepping-stone to deeper engagement in a social cause, a cape might very well be in your future.

 

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