A fellow classmate made such a simple, but yet powerful statement about social activism: “If you don’t talk about it, it means you don’t think that it matters”. Silence or taking a stance of neutrality sends a message to our students. It portrays that we don’t care about significant things, such as racism, that is happening in our society. Teachers are social activists. We are put in a position where we can influence children and youth. We are put in a position where we can impact society. What do we need to do about it? We need to begin to have conversations with our students. We need to begin to talk about racism, sexism, biases, stereotypes, and other topics that society needs to work through. Having a conversation is one of the most important things that we can do as educators.
Can social justice topics go further then just talking about them in our classes? Is it worthwhile to have these conversations online? Let’s take a moment and discuss whether or not online social activism can be meaningful!
There are most definitely some benefits to online social activism. When we want to bring awareness to people about a specific event or topic, we need to find a way to connect with them. Where can we do this? The internet is a tool that allows a message to be spread throughout the entire world. This is great! An article states that, “One of the biggest benefits of using digital tools for positive changes is the ability to connect with a large community, and if applicable, globalise a campaign’s goals”. The same article goes on to say that we no longer have to go door-to-door or stand at street corners to bring awareness. Instead, we can use social media, such as FaceBook and Twitter, to reach out to everyone around the world. We now have a bigger audience.
An 8 year old posted a sign about hosting a free piano recital. Someone came along and decided to post the sign on FaceBook. This went viral! Before they knew it, they had hundreds of people showing up to his front yard. They were there to support the young boy. This is a great example of how online social activism should work! Evidently, the picture impacted the heart of the people living in the community. They felt compassion. It is important to note that the community did not just simply “like” the photo and continue to scroll down on FaceBook. Instead, the post motivated them to take action. They went and supported the young boy. By no means was this a campaign, but it serves as a reminder to make sure that we do take action. Simply clicking the “like”, “share”, or “retweet” button does not mean that we are social activists. So yes, using the web can indeed be meaningful to get an important message out to the community, or even to the rest of the world!
Using the online world as a tool to bring awareness does come with some disadvantages that we need to be aware of. According to the dictionary, the term “slacktivism” means, “actions taken to bring about political or social change but requiring only minimal commitment, effort, or risk”. This is where we run into danger. For example, back in 2014 there was the “Ice Bucket Challenge Campaign”. In summary, people would through ice over their head, nominate three people to do the same, and they were suppose to donate money to the ALS Association. This did have a positive impact on the research of ALS. It did bring in a significant amount of money. However, let’s not forget about the hundreds of people who did the challenge without donating. Most of us probably had a friend, or perhaps it was ourselves who was unaware, that did the challenge because it looked like “fun” and everyone else was doing it. They lost sight of the cause. Were they really making a difference by just throwing ice over they head? It is so easy to get caught up in this mindset. A click of a button or a silly action does not necessarily mean we are contributing to a social change.
So, what do we do about it? It is important to constantly think critically as we engage in social justice through the online world. Before we click buttons on social media and throw ice buckets over our heads, we need to think about the actions that we will do to support the awareness. Although is has been said thousands of times, there is significant truth to this phrase: “actions speak louder then words”. Do our actions match what we are saying? In this case, do our actions match what we are liking and sharing on FaceBook or Twitter?
Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/135148869@N04/22228636261/”>PaulsenDesign3D</a> Flickr via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147″>cc</a>
Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/44560354@N07/19963500408/”>tdscosp</a> Flickr via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a> <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/help/general/#147″>cc</a>