When I think of activism, I don’t get a very good image in my head. The blog I read about that outlined the six functions of activism did little to help my perception. I might be a little cynical, but when I think of activism all I can picture is a bunch of people who join a cause because it sounds like a good idea without getting all the facts. The cause might be worthwhile, but I disagree with people jumping on the bandwagon just because all their friends are supporting this cause. This year has been an excellent example of the herd mindset. It seems like every tragedy or issue that comes up, people feed off of others’ emotions about the topic. Then they go on a social media posting spree about how the world is unjust and how something must be done then and there or else whoever is supposed to be handling it is incompetent. I don’t condone this type of activism because it shrouds the people who are actually trying to do good.
For example, I read up on Eleni Bernier. Eleni is a sixteen year old who uses Twitter to help those with depression and other issues. Her Twitter feed is full of posts meant to boost her followers’ self esteem and help them get through tough times. Her posts let these people know they aren’t alone and that there is always at least one person rooting for them. This is the type of activism that I can get behind because she is actually doing something more. She isn’t just putting a filter on her profile pictures or sharing a status. She’s actually putting herself out there in an attempt to help others.
The herd mentality is what bothers me the most about digital activism. It seems that there is a profile photo filter or status to share for every issue. The problem is that even if people don’t wish to be sucked into these issues, they end up participating anyways out of fear of judgement or exclusion. If you don’t share this picture that supports breast cancer research, then you must be a monster. If you don’t change your profile photo to support a cause, then you are a despicable human being. If you don’t share this post then you are going to miss out. Admit it, these thoughts have run through your head and made you want to do something just because everyone else was doing it. One example of this is after the Paris attacks. Everyone changed their profile photo so it had the filter made to show support. While that’s nice and all, what are you really doing by changing your profile picture? It’s a nice sentiment, but instead of passive support, show that you truly care by donating to a recovery fund or finding some way to actually help people.
Digital activism is great, but it must be up to the population to properly educate themselves on the issues before participating. Don’t fall for the pretty pictures and the hype of current events. Wait for ALL information to come out, then make your decisions. Don’t feel pressured and don’t pressure others to join the cause.
Photo CC: Petteri Sulonen