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?