Social Media: Applications and websites that enable users to create and share content online or to participate in social networking via the internet, laptops or mobile devices. Activism: The policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. A lot of people initially utilized Social Media to connect with Friends and Families or even hook up with a potential love interest. However that is so 2012. There is a new social media ERA. Just like those that thought email, mobile phones or the internet would never displace the hand written letter, the pay phone or news media’s via television and newspapers, once again it’s time to wake up and smell the Espresso!
However #BlackFriday revealed that although the world has clearly gone social, there are some cultural roadblocks we cannot ignore. The future of social media includes social marketing, social merchandising, social commerce but none of those are as revolutionary as the rising tide of social activism spurred on by #Ferguson #MichaelBrown #TravonMartin
Hashtag Activism – What other way can you rally disgruntled folks that are disconnected in every other aspect in an instant, all it takes is a hashtag gone viral. Not that the hashtag is the end all, it’s actually the call to action based on what everyone needs to understand and agree upon. This in itself will determine how successful an act of social activism will be. Do the masses agree with what’s being protested, is there a common outrage and are the folks engaged enough to actually ACT in an unified form?
Take the recent #Ferguson”boycott”, let’s actually review what did and did not happen! And was it or was it not effective. But more than a criticism or hindsight commentary, let’s talk about what to do WHEN we find ourselves frustrated, outraged, disrespected, not represented in mainstream media, and want to demonstrate what we are capable of when united or just want to get the worlds attention!
The Ferguson Boycott hashtags began circulating soon after the grand jury indictment and at the same time as the local riots began. The hashtags that came through my twitter feed included #donothing (as in don’t buy on black friday or no social media on black friday) and there was #blackoutfriday. Latter I saw #blackOwnedOnlyFriday. But like anything you post in an open social media forum, it’s up for discussion and debate. So some people started responding to #blackoutfriday, that if everyone that was frustrated with the Michael Brown decision made no purchases it would financially impact the stores, that if sells were down they would start laying off the minority employees first. The best counter argument that I read was that a supporter was going to spend time with her family rather than shopping in honor of Michael Brown not being able to spend time with his family this thanksgiving.
When it came to boycotting stores for one day, one person countered, ‘if this was suppose to be like the MLK bus boycotts, keep in mind those were 90 days long not just one day’ and would twitter protesters have that type of tenacity.
Then there was the call to not tweet for one day, but then there were those that said ‘they want to stifle and silence our voice’, social media in fact is how the rest of the world knows how mainstream feels about things like the #MichaelBrown decision. Although some think social activism is passive in all it’s forms, others thought a more peaceful show of protest was a positive backdrop amongst the destructive fires being set.
Even when I did a twitter search on #blackfridayboycott, I also found workers boycotting Walmart for low wages, and people boycotting those stores that start blackfriday early by opening on Thursdays. So the waters were blurred and muddy especially in such an unstructured platform.
But after all was said, each individual had to decided what they were going to do. I did restrain from both purchasing anything during black Friday #NotOneDime and I did stay off of twitter for 24 hours. Those who know me, know
doing either is an extreme effort. I do both (shopping and twitter) daily even when it’s not black friday! Nonetheless, my reasons may not have been exactly inline with everyone else. I applaud the attempt but the analytical part of my brain wanted to capture the lesson’s learned because if there was one positive thing that I believe could be leveraged for future injustices is that Social media is the most powerful new weapon in the the activist arsenal. So I looked at it as a Social Activism Case Study based on a Twitter Call to Action Campaign. The idea and the concept of full social activism has been planted.
1. With social media, you can send more messages to more people quickly.
2. Social media can challenge the news being reported. That comes with some consequences. Misinformation had to filter. I dare say what you see on social media should only motivate you to do your research for the facts.
3. Social media gives people the power to call out injustices, inaccuracies and misrepresentations and brings about better understanding of other cultures and people.
4. By organizing, creating and supporting hashtag campaigns, people from all over the world can get involved in important conversations.
5. Social media is a more accessible way of activism for those who cannot leave the home.
6. Social media equals power, as demonstrated by certain countries banning or controlling access.
7. An engaged and interactive audience for news coverage and challenge them to ask and get answers to the questions you want to hear.
Now imagine if we just go back to simply tweeting quotes of the day, contributing to the latest trending celebrity or “binge tweeting” about a television show. It’s important to stay socially active, meaning making sure you are ready to act when the ‘call for action’ goes out. Who knows next time #itCouldbeYourChild – how would you rally worldwide support? Create a list of information sources not just sources of opinions. Remember people will intentionally undermine the conversation and deter productive conversation on purpose or worst even bully those. Anyone can troll and use your hashtag. It’s known as counter tweets. Their goal is to simply take away momentum. They will test how resilient and commitment to the cause. Like anything else, social media should be used responsibly. Verify tweets before believing them and re-sharing them.
It’s what people do after the retweets that seperates the social media enthusiatist from the social media activist.
But before naming calling the enthusiastic and labeling them fake activist, clicktivist, or lazy! Let’s understand their role, they can spread the word, make people aware, they are key in the education phase. You just have to make sure it’s not the only phase. History shows there are approximation 1 of 3 phases to social media activism. “Social media activism is a movement: A group of people working together to advance their shared political and social ideas. You need all three types of contributors (1) Enthusiast to show people reality — or at least a version of it – independent of what TV networks show. (2) Fast track information (raise awareness) thereby short-circuiting the normal editorial processes that used to filter what they said. (3) to engage non-activist much more than traditional media (even if it’s guilt cause everyone else is doing it)
With that said ‘the next cultural and social revolution could likely be started with a tweet!’ The Ferguson was just a drop in the bucket! #UnitedWeSTEM and digital activism I would say is still in it’s infancy in the communities that need it the most. What happens to the population that misses the next revolutionary inspiring tweet #ItCouldBeYourChild because they are so far off the grid or for them Social Media is for socializing. In the days of the Ferguson Twitter Boycott, I can talk to 12 people in the community and they gave me a variety of reasons why they are not plugged into social media (1) don’t have a working computer (never updated their virus software) (2) are using computer 5 -6 years old (3) don’t have internet access at home (4) change their phone number/services 2 to 3 times month (5) don’t have data plans on their phone (6) don’t use/trust twitter, pinterest (7) don’t have time for either (8) have personal reasons not to be active on internet for fear of being found (for a variety of reasons) (9) are not computer saavvy – intimidated by new programs or changing programs (10) think social media is for kids, for socializing, or for whatever reason generally a waste of time and has no redeeming purpose worthy of their time.
As one person wrote imagine the power of the civil rights movement had Martin Luther King had the hashtag #Ihaveadream or #SelmaMarchWithUs. I dare say the hashtag that resignated with me on the eve of blackfriday was #donothing. My appeal is to parents, grandparents, moms, dads, sisters – just pause for a moment and do these 3 things #justincase #nexttime #ItCouldBeMychild
When we started Technology Expresso we knew we wanted to provide people quick easy, shots or blasts of information on the current state of STEM, with a concentration on Technology and now Social Media is clearly a signification subset of that mission. One of our frequently used sayings is “United We STEM”. Unity and being informed is the lynch pin of effectively using Social Activism. We have set up our end of the information pipeline for that reason. Here is all that you have to do:
Feeling inspired – Want to be in the social loop then #DoSomething – 3 Simple Action Items. Try it for 30 days. You can Unplug anytime or you can #DoNothing.
1.OPT IN: Broaden your circle. i.e. Join our circle. Provide Twitter Handle, email or phone number to firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Join the Big 3 (Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook) social outlets so you can be counted. Go to our Youtube for step by step instructions.
3. Sign up for a weekly email summary! We understand some just don’t have time for the internet noise, information overload and trivia online chatter. You just need the recap!