WHEN SOCIAL MEDIA JUST ISN’T ENOUGH: A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO ACTIVISM
We stand in a world where knowledge is at our fingertips, so it’s not surprising that with a swipe or a click we try to educate others. We discover a new idea and our immediate thought is to share it through ‘Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp’ at speed! What started off as a form of entertainment now sees social media giants at the forefront of activism, particularly projecting the voices of young people. In fact, according to Pew Research Centre in 2018, around half of Americans engaged in some form of political or social-minded activity on social media.
However, despite this social media eruption we don’t always see the change we long for. We’ve all heard of and perhaps experienced the negative effects of social media. A recent spotlighted offence was Facebooks collusion with Cambridge Analytica in the American presidential election. Moreover, current social media interaction is at risk of being labelled ‘slacktivism’ which is effortless social media sharing that has a political objective, something a lot of us are guilty of. So, this provokes the questions of whether social media is enough to connect our internal activist with the outside world? How can our online activism have an offline impact?
January 2017 saw Washington’s Women’s March attract crowds of hundreds of thousands. This marked a historical moment as it became the largest single-day protest in America and it all stemmed from a single Facebook post. This shows an example of online activity which translated into positive offline action on the front lines! Now whilst this is an amazing example of the strength of communication and human spirit, we can’t all start a protest, but your actions can still help.
Create a strong narrative
Traditional effective forms of activism rely on a consistent narrative - all we need to do is replace how we communicate this narrative and social media provides a great way of spreading the word! To stand out from the crowd and make your mark, post compelling information that portrays a movements intention through your narrative. Invite others to share in this narrative and you have an effective way of spreading the word, just think of the #MeToo movement for narrative inspiration.
Support impacted voices
Recognise that who’s telling the story can be just as important as the story itself. Social justice is built around real people and their experiences - utilise this passion and individuality to make the movement known. By emphasising the human side of the issue, it becomes more relatable and has the ability to empower other similar voices.
Use online activism to compliment offline activism
Magnify offline actions using online actions - communicate the organisation of offline actions through social media platforms. Even if you can’t be on the frontline yourself you can play your part in organising an effective demonstration for those happy to be on the frontline. Remember that both online and offline activity can be done in isolation, but real mobilisation happens when they’re used together.
These suggestions are only brief but offer a guide to helping the outside world through the medium of the online world. Don’t be scared to expand your comfort zone and reflect on your social media presence to make your mark! You can also join our Young Changemakers Program, applications open for 15th August 2020.
About the author: Emily has just finished her 2nd year at the University of Warwick studying Philosophy and Global Sustainable Development. She has hugely enjoyed studying a degree course which combines her interests in social justice and sustainability and hopes to pursue these areas further in her future career.