This week, we were asked to address the following questions:
Can online social media activism be meaningful and worthwhile?
Is it possible to have productive conversations about social justice online?
What is our responsibility as educators to model active citizenship online?
It took awhile for me to gather my thoughts and write this blog post. I feel as though these questions can be quite heavily debated. There are many ways that people can be involved in social activism, and not all ways are viewed as “equal” by others. I personally struggle with taking a specific side in this debate.
On one hand, as an educator, I fall under the umbrella of people who are toeing a line where they are not sure to what extent we can voice these thoughts without “getting in trouble.” It appears that depending on the platform used and the division that employs you, there is a certain level of acceptability. At some point, we must ask ourselves when this behavior is considered risky as we are often still considered as representing our employers in some way.
I also question whether using social media is really the best way to bring about change. There are many times now a days that we see “hashtag activism” where people show their support through a hashtag such as #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter. Peter Susci points out that with the amount of participation in using a simple hashtag, one needs to question whether all of these people are actually activist for change, or if they are just showing support without taking any meaningful action. I think that hashtag activism can be great for drawing attention to important issues and encouraging people to educate themselves. However, I don’t believe that enough people are using the hashtag and then contributing in a direct way to bring about change.
On the other hand, I can see the benefits that some people find with using social media as a tool to participate in activism and to share their thoughts on social justice issues. As an educator, I echo Katie Hildebrandt’s position that “silence speaks just as loudly as words.” It is imperative that educators are using their positions of power and their voices to draw attention to social justice issues and to use their privilege in a meaningful way. However, I am not always comfortable using social media to do this, and often limit my sharing of my opinions on sensitive topics online. I am willing to share my general stance on a topic, but I am not willing to spend time debating with people I don’t know online. This does not mean that I do not support important social justice issues, I just prefer to have these discussions in person. I also believe that I can use my privilege as an educator to try an enact real change with my students who I connect with daily by helping them to navigate the digital world as well as complex social issues. I don’t feel that I necessarily need to be posting these things online. Instead, I can use social media to listen and learn.
I am curious, so I will leave whoever is reading this with a few questions:
1) What is your stance on posting your opinion/debating online?
2) Do you ever worry about possible backlash in connection to your employment?
3) Do you believe that hashtag activism is able to create real substantial change?
9 thoughts on “Social Media Activism”
Like you, I feel split on this issue. I see the power but also the downfalls. I despise people who use social media in self serving or hurtful ways and this affects my feelings about using social media for activism. However, I also get excited about its potential and want to utilize it! I definitely lean towards being overly cautious about what I say, how I say it and how I share issues I am passionate about.
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Yes, it definitely sucks to see people manipulating this online. Or seeing the people who get into a debate, but refuse to even look at or consider what the other person is saying!
Similarly, I too find that I am toeing the line with wanting to use social media for good things and trying to stay away from it together. I can see the potential benefits of using social media platforms for good causes, and I can also see how they can really make changes and create movements. But I too see the downfalls of it, especially trolls and other people that use their platforms for personal gain. Not really into that either. I to lean on the side of caution as I know that there can be some serious implications for my job and job security.
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Our blog posts are very similar this week! I agree… there is a fine line in regards to what teachers should and should not post online. I am very cautious of this. My admin team often reminds us to watch what we are posting on social media, which comes as a division initiative. This is echoed by Alec and Katia’s point regarding Responsible Use agreements vs. Acceptable Use agreements (http://educationaltechnology.ca/2804/); should we be told what is acceptable or allow us to find the responsible use of technology on our own? I am not as concerned with the immediate repercussions, but am worried that being too vocal on an issue (again, I always reference COVID because it is unknown territory and policies are changing so often) could mean ostracizing myself or giving myself a bad reputation when it comes time to move schools or apply for admin positions.
Great post! Thanks for sharing!
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I agree. In a way I think that I should be able to freely speak on any issues I want as long as it isn’t considered slander to my employer. At the same time, I know there are some things I would share that they would probably not be happy with! Usually keeping quiet or complaining to just my fiancé at home seems to be the best option for most things.
“I also question whether using social media is really the best way to bring about change.”
This was my focus on my blog post for this week. I often find myself questioning the intentions of those who are solely social media activists with a lack of boots on the ground action. Are they doing it for the right reasons? Are they feeling pressured to get involved in posting?
I came across an interesting article while writing my post, entitled “When Everyone is an Activist Online, Is Anyone?” written by Ella Glover. I found this to be a reassuring read, as sometimes I wonder others felt the same way that I did. I am not saying that this type of activism cannot be purposeful, I think there needs to be urgency to put our money where our mouths are.
Thanks for the read!
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Great article Brett! I also read that one during my search for sources. I found it very informative and enjoyed that they spoke to multiple other people for their opinions as well.
An article I read and referenced, Digital and Online Activism (https://en.reset.org/knowledge/digital-and-online-activism) spoke to the hashtag activism that you spoke of. They referred to the concept as ‘slacktivism’. I also question whether this type of activism leads to meaningful change outside of a virtual environment. I would be interested to see some concrete data on how online activism contributed to real change in movements like Black Lives Matter. Yes, it no doubt raised awareness, but have black people seen a real difference in their lives? Have racism and systemic barriers to success been removed, allowing them more equality?
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I have the same questions. Although my gut feeling is that, unfortunately, I don’t think there has been a ton of impact aside from some people being more aware.