Online activism has proven itself to be one of the most effective educational and informative resources available when it comes to world crises and global conflict. Using social media to spread this type of information can propel discussion, enable faster communication, and deliver trusted information to larger demographics around the world. Additionally, digital tools are bringing about social and political change when it comes to things like lobbying, cause-related fundraising, community building, and volunteerism.
Online activism is best at shining alight on subjects that are typically shoved under the rug, and creating a forum for conversation. Social media provides an environment for individuals to express themselves independently, but also the opportunity to forge communities. However, the phenomenon of the “butthurt activist” is changing this.
Most of us can identify with the person on our various news feeds who is constantly posting statuses or links about a cause they are fully immersed, whether it’s arms control or animal testing. This person usually feels very, very strongly, and it’s not unusual for their opinions to ignite a flame war in the comments section.
The culture of online activism is taking a downfall as activists become uber-sensitive and close the blinds on the general population, forgetting their initial goal to eliminate widespread ignorance.
We only ever tend to pay attention to the topical injustice of the day. This is the way media works, but not the way activism should. We binge repost about LGBTQ rights come Pride, but speak of it in hushed whispers for the remainder of the year until Leelah Alcon commits suicide in December and it’s brought in the spotlight again. Instead of playing leapfrog with bandwagons, we need to pay sustained attention to the causes we are passionate about. If we don’t, our efforts become just another angry voice in the mob, rather than the helping hand we hoped it would be.
When we turn our energy and attention from one outrage to the other, we end up not investing the time and the willpower to facilitate actual change. The reality is that the problems are complicated, and there is much to do past the initial shock and outrage we feel. We often get caught up in screaming at each other, and desperately hoping to pin blame on someone or something.People’s feelings inevitably get hurt, they withdraw from the conversation, and all that’s left is a tight circle of individuals with tunnel vision:people with good intentions but a poorly executed game plan. But the sheer strength in numbers should not be dismissed.
Online activism inhibits a cycle: issues are exposed through social media, individuals are inspired to take action, individuals share their experiences (which are amplified by social networks), and there is more action A person’s natural curiosity is entailed when they log onto their feeds and see #Ferguson or #IceBucketChallenge.
But nowadays, messages are being throttled into people’s faces with harsh undertones of contempt. We are pointing fingers and weighing one injustice on top of another. The culture of online activism has quickly evolved into aspree of signing petitions, clicking, watching a video, clicking, typing a comment about why user X is a hypocrite, and clicking again.
In the haste, we quickly forget that nobody is free of ignorance, including ourselves, and we become openly derisive to the people we wish to inform. To diminish ignorance, it’s vital that we approach others as fellow learners. Nobody likes hearing a message packed with moral judgement. We need to realize it’s okay to talk about any sort of issues—as long as we’re talking.
Online activism relies on people’s ability to educate themselves and often let go of their long held beliefs about certain topics. In order to do that, they must be receptive. Being accepting and open minded when informing others of issues not only makes the complexity of the issues easier to digest, but unites the masses, which in turn creates a tidal pool of action that cannot be ignored.