5 Reasons I Love Social Media for Social Justice
Well hello again!
I really have to apologize for the lack of updates. Life has been a whirlwind as of late. Applying and getting into grad school, preparing to move out of state, wrapping up work-related projects, saying goodbye to the place I’ve called home for the last five years can really make it hard to sit down and put thoughts on paper. However, with my new school schedule I hope to be able to get you updates in a more timely fashion.
If you follow me on social media at all, you may glean that I can get pretty passionate about certain issues of race, culture, feminism, social justice, human rights, de-colonizing the mind, and the like. And, while posting and tweeting and blogging about the things you believe in and causes that you support only does so much, it’s still a great way to stay informed of all of the sides of a social justice issue and hear traditionally marginalized voices.
Whether people want to admit it or not, what stories get told (and not), when they’re told, how they’re told, and who tells them is very much dependent on power. (Parenthetical citation Chimamanda Adiche) The great thing about social media is that it doesn’t give a crap about power. Sure there are always run-of-the-mill celebrities and pseudo-celebrities and trolls whose metaphoric voice is “louder” than some. I also don’t mean to discount the fact that the use of social media does have some access barriers with respect to income and language. However, for the most part, social media’s low barriers to entry, so-to-speak, make it an excellent platform for those just getting their start at social justice, community organizing, and activism.
1. If you look, without too much effort, you can find two smart people saying completely opposite things.
The ubiquitous nature of social media means that just about everyone is on there. I had an experience a few weeks ago when someone I followed made a comment about the experience of Black slaves being owned by American Indians. Another person I followed, a semi-renowned scholar (but a white man) made a comment, which attempted to contextualize this experience within a framework of colonization, and ultimately, white supremacy. The original poster, a black and indigenous woman, became understandably upset at this individual for centering a white experience within something she was trying to label and speak to from her own experience.
Ultimately, who is “right” and who is “wrong” in this situation is SORT OF irrelevant. For the record, I can see how it is rather unhelpful and unwelcome to center conversations about whiteness in conversations about and among people of color, however, also recognize that there are a lot of systems and practices that were passed via colonialism. The important part is, they were both smart, well-reasoned arguments which made a lot of sense, and I as a witness to the conversation gained better understanding having listened to both sides.
While there’s a lot of dummies who spout crap on social media–there’s a lot of smart people too. And, if you look hard enough you can find them and learn from them.
2. …Alternatively, you can cultivate relatively safe sounding chamber for ideas that you already agree on.
Me, reading my Twitter lists.
Sometimes when you have a belief or a thought and it isn’t largely reflected around you, it can make you feel crazy. You may try timidly to express yourself and insert just a little bit of your beliefs into everyday conversation, only to be shot down. Alternatively, if you have an idea or belief that people want to learn about, it can feel like you’re always starting at square one–explaining basic concepts over and over without actually moving significantly further in your own thinking. Of course, it’s important to stay modest and realize that one can learn from every interaction. Still there’s something to be said about putting oneself in situations where the expectation is to learn instead of teach.
That’s what I love about social media. I can quietly lurk on message boards and conversations between folks that have an understanding and experience of issues that I could never have. Or, I can use groups of like-minded folks to deepen ideas that we all hold. In this, I can also test out different ideas and practice defending them with commonly-utilized language. This, in turn, brings me to my next point.
3. You can spread a message and always keep things in someone’s authentic voice.
When you start writing papers and stuff in grade school they always tell you to cite your sources. If you’re me, when you’re in like 3rd grade this basically just means just putting paragraphs and paragraphs of text in between quotation marks and throwing a parenthetical citation on the end. Over time though, teachers think that’s less cute and ask you to say things “in your own words.” And then, whether you’re mindful of it or not, sometimes you forget what ideas you came up with and which came from others. And sometimes, there’s not-so-nice people in the world who aim to appropriate ideas for themselves without giving proper credit.
Social medias got this nifty feature called “sharing.” Instead of playing a game of social justice telephone and running the risk of appropriating someone else’s idea without their permission, you can simply re-post! It links back to the originator automatically–built in citations– and if you’re so inclined you can even offer your own comments which help to further the conversation on the topic in question.
4. It’s an awesome way to practice raising your voice.
While some people like to think that everyone can come to conversations with an equal footing, that’s simply not the case. Some people don’t have the same ability to speak their mind and ideas in public–whether that be blocked by personal anxieties or bigger power dynamics at play.
Me, right after I express an idea.
With social media you can try it out! Start small by re-posting some things that align with your beliefs. Then you might comment on other people’s posts and ideas. Sooner or later you’ll be making your own posts and talking about your own opinions! And, if you say something wrong and embarass yourself you’re not standing up in front of a bunch of people and you can self-medicate with junk food and alcohol.
5. Let me say this again…it (for the most part) doesn’t give a crap a power.
Part of why I like social media, namely Twitter, is the ability to create these lists of “thought leaders” on various subjects that I’m passionate about. This is sort of the mixed blessing of social media because it’s hard to know who to believe and whose full of crap. And, one person may be spouting truths one moment, and their next post might be something totally whacked out.
The nice thing is, though, is that people with lots of followers are usually saying stuff people want to hear. Or at least saying things people want to “look” like they are hearing. This allows folks who might not normally get a chance to speak an outlet for their wisdom and expertise.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is no substitute for “analog” activism. One should always strive to attend marches, start meetings, write articles, sign petitions, and engage in face to face conversations. However, social media can be a super great strategy for flexing your social justice muscle!