Social Media Can Harm and Interfere With Political Activism

Bomb blasts in Boston. A school shooting in Sandy Hook. The campaign to capture Kony. Through dark and tumultuous times, we have stood together in solidarity. We have talked about these issues dozens of times and have circulated links to videos and articles. We have posted Facebook statuses to spread awareness and show our sentiments. We have tweeted our reactions — the resentment, confusion, and fear. But then what did we do?

This is where I ask — what does it really mean to be an activist? How much does changing your profile picture really impact whether or not same-sex marriage legislation will be passed? Did posting the link to Kony 2012 really benefit the mission to stop him? Recently, UNICEF posted a dramatic statement that said, “Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio … we have nothing against likes, but vaccine costs money.” Social media has created an incredible platform to express our thoughts and amplify our voices. But during the process, we have forgotten what it means to truly be an activist.

Several argue that the one of the greatest steps to creating change is to highlight different issues and make them as accessible as possible. While this is true, it misses the critical component of activism.

When is the last time you participated in a protest to fight for a cause? When is the last time you wrote a letter or made a phone call to your senator, UN representative, or mayor? When is the last time you talked to the administration for a university or school district to address the “lack of education during childhood” we all preach about?

I am guilty of never having participated in any of those acts. And perhaps the ability to simply post a status or article on Facebook about my feelings has made me feel complacent. I don’t feel the need to step outside of my comfort zone. Posting a status is safe. Everyone I know can see what has happened and what my views are on the subject. I can’t be arrested. And the most antagonism that I will ever be forced to deal with will be from a comment. And usually, people who don’t care for the subject or disagree with my views won’t respond anyway.

We don’t all have to be activists in the world. We don’t all have to picket outside of the White House to stand for a cause. But if we don’t agree with a piece of legislation, or if we do feel passionately about a cause, we need to ask ourselves if social media is really the solution to our concerns.