Comic Strip by Justine Johns
All through history, activism took on different forms from art, essays, demonstrations, propaganda to rebellions and since 1990s; the internet became a device and a means for activism in itself. The Arab Spring sure did play a major role in pushing out activism into the mainstream media by using it as a tool to organize and spread information (Brym Robert, et al., 2014). This transition shows how movements and organizations are slowly adapting social media as their primary weapon for deriving action for social change.
“The power of social media is it forces necessary change”. – Erick Qualman
I use social media mainly for interaction to keep in touch with my friends, family and work colleagues. Whereas an activist uses this platform more as a tool to create awareness, educate or call for an action to connect with a large audience at a faster rate, than using the traditional method.
Back in time, activism was all about physical demonstrations like sitting under hot sunny days, shouting slogans, typing long letters, walking miles to make a point and so on but thanks to social media now one can have a hot cup of coffee, sit under the air conditioner, produce short creative materials and make the world shake by connecting like-minded people. What makes online activism more efficient and interesting from the traditional means is not in its overarching goals; but in the form and methods, users from all levels connect and participate towards a specific cause. In other words, Internet has altered the traditional means of communication in its extent and ways by addressing the problem online to drive engagement and a call for action.
Take for instance, the 2015 #BlackLivesMatter against the police brutality in Ferguson that called in for a massive outcry on twitter in support for social justice and racial equality Bennett (Swanson, M 2017). The #MarriageEquality with users changing their profiles to rainbow color in support and celebrating the legalization of same sex marriage. Even our former President Barack Obama used online activism efficiently to accomplish amazing level of success in his presidential election campaign in 2008.
The traditional media would no longer need to frame the news for us when we could be the source and the providers for news. Also, the Information received through the media is limited in its participation and is mostly a one sided process. Take for example a television or a radio interview, even though it is an interview where one can voice their thoughts or debate on a topic, it is still restricted in its scale, timeliness and the amount of engagement or discussions it could have presented originally.
Social media is different, it connects one to many. Online networking has an enormous and growing audience who are tremendously engaged in different online activities. Statistics indicate that there are 500 million Tweets sent out everyday, 4 billion YouTube clicks per day and 1.23 billion monthly users active on Facebook (Smith,2014). In addition, it is not just about the growing online numbers and peoples involvement that is just noteworthy. Money is being traded and contributed through this platform at a very high level like for fundraising, mainly seen among non-for profit organizations, whose aim is not just creating awareness but anticipate their online presence and efforts will bring about an action, ideally as donations too.
Online media is dramatically changing and rewriting rules of activism through its mainstream approach. It is opening doors through its extent and the level of action it can derive. So why not use this online media judiciously for influencing and bring about change? So remember, next time you believe you are voiceless, try switching to social media.
Check out the TEDx Talk and the podcast below for more interesting views on how social media is reinventing the world of communication:
Bennett Swanson, M 2017, ‘ Media Coverage of Black Lives Matter’, Critique: A Worldwide Student Journal of Politics, pp. 98-130, Political Science Complete, EBSCOhost, Retrieved 27 July 2017, Deakin Library.
Brym Robert, et al., 2014,’Social media in the 2011 Egyptian uprising’, British Journal of Sociology, vol. 65, no. 2, pp. 266-292. doi: 10.1111/1468-4446.12080.
Smith, C, 2014, How Many People Use 415 of the Top Social Media, Apps and Tools? Digital Marketing Ramblings, Retrieved 28 July 2017, < http://expandedramblings.com/index.php/how-many-people-use-social-media/#.U0-QMa1dWIcWatson,>.