Online activism can be a good thing. We’ve seen changes here and there, proving that people listen to the sound of our furious typing.
Don’t be fooled, however. Online activism has its traps. International brands have seen the wrath of the comments section for co-opting various movements. One cannot just showcase a racially-diverse set of models in their campaigns but ignore inequalities in their conference rooms. We need to be discerning of the materials we see as we scroll through our feeds. Is your favorite brand just using the issues as social media fodder to remain relevant? Or do they truly care?
For individuals, social media makes us feel like we are doing something in the wake of overwhelming issues that render us seemingly powerless. Typing out our opinion to see where the “Likes” will take us serves as a kind of release too.
But one must not only tag a photo or a post with #BlackLivesMatter, #StoptheKillings, or #JunkTerrorLaw among the many other hashtags and say they’ve done enough. Online activism should be the start. If a post empowers you, then let it encourage you to make more concrete moves to better yourself and take part in creating a society that is, as we like to say, woke.
In this spirit, we’ve put together a few questions for you to think about before hitting that “Post” button. It’s can also serve as a litmus test to use for the images and messages you see on your feed.
#2 Do I come from sincere intentions?
After reading up on the vital material and going through it with a critical lens, ask if what you’re about to express is a way to show your support or just a performative gesture. You can be an ally with nary a word on social media. See the next question.
#3 Have I exerted other ways to show my solidarity?
Click that donate button! Report profiles and posts that propagate hate, discrimination, and violence. The power you possess isn’t just found in the words you type. Join public chat groups that share facts and informative tools. Put your money towards organizations, drives, startups, and companies that are supporting the grassroots industries or are giving directly to the people in need.
#4 Do I participate in fruitful and open discussions about the issues?
Your offline presence is essential. If the rise in online activism taught us one thing, it’s how we’re in dire need of genuine connections. Try to have the difficult conversations you need with the people closest to you when both parties are ready.
Learn also to disengage at the right time and interact when needed. Don’t get into a comment war especially if it’s going nowhere and is filled with personal insults. Do politely point out misleading links family members and contacts share in the group chat.
#5 Am I open to criticism and to learning more?
By criticism, we mean sound reasoning and fact-checking. Someone who doesn’t agree with you isn’t automatically a troll or a hater. If you’ve posted something that proves more harmful than helpful, despite your best intentions, apologize and be thankful to those who want to educate you more.
In turn, remember that you won’t be able to create more allies by judging misguided and misinformed people pejoratively. If they’re open to a true sharing of ideas, approach them respectfully so you can understand where they’re coming from. It may be a heated topic, but having a calm matter towards it gets you farther. Leave the shouting in the streets.
#7 Am I using my platform progressively, or am I just in it for the clicks?
This is related to question #2. It’s also for those who are in charge of branding and campaigns. It’s cool if you want to let your thousands of followers in on the issues. If you think that your significant Impressions count could be used to lead people to the right links where they can join the cause, we’re all for it. But please spare us any marketing ploys masquerading as online protests. Spare us from attempts to use activism to chase clout.
#8 Am I co-opting a movement for an ad/marketing tool?
Connected to #7. You can’t just slap on a hashtag/activism message on a product, logo, or image to show solidarity. Look up pinkwashing and greenwashing to see how these have caused damage to the LGBTQIA+ community and the call for a greener earth. If you are using protest materials for your campaign, honestly answer question #1 first. Otherwise, your well-intended show of support might be tone-deaf and insensitive at the very least.
#9 Do I observe my behavior to address micro-transgressions I do in my life?
Do you still say the N-word casually because there are no Black people around you anyway? Are you saying you’re not a racist because “I have Black friends” or “Listen to Kendrick Lamar”? Are you a “Karen”? Are you an apologist for a certain dictator? Are you in denial of a particular death toll, and do you feel opposed to the words “human rights”? It looks like you’ve got more reading and Googling to do.
#10 What more can I do?
It’s positive and hopeful that you’re doing your best to be a true ally by reflecting on your actions and intentions. There are more steps you can take to provoke change that’s unique to your situation and sphere of influence. Look for them and do it!
When it comes to fighting for what is right, there must be room to grow, learn, and to self-evaluate. Not everyone is perfect but that’s not an excuse to participate in the process of being a better online activist.