Social Media Activism

The rally cry of the 21st century has become “awareness”.  We wear rubber bracelets.  We engage in online challenges.  We participate in national theme days – wear red for heart association, no bra days for breast cancer (BTW, who made that up? I personally should not be going anywhere in public with a bra…someone with a smaller bust line made that one up).

I wonder if we have replaced action with awareness. We will spend $50 on a red shirt for Go Red Day.  But what does that do to actually help the cause of your choice?  Wouldn’t you (and those that the charity benefits) be better off just giving that money directly to the organization?  I know there are times you can buy merchandise and a cut goes to a charity.  But if you are spending $20 and only 10% is going to your cause, then who are you really helping?  Do you really need pink rubber bracelets?

Then there is the social media activism.  Now we bring awareness through viral video stunts and hashtags -some of these actually end up being incredibly effective.  The Ice Bucket Challenge is a great example of a campaign that was well executed.

  1. How many people do you think prior to this challenge had heard of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS – also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease)?
  2. In addition, it took advantage of society’s need to be seen and acknowledged.  We were able to do something fun and involve our friends by challenging them to participate and, of course, try to make our video so great that we could get our 15 minutes of internet fame.
  3. But the part that was most impressive to me, was the way that money was part of the challenge. The amount of your donation was dependent on if you carried out the ice bucket part.  This one campaign raised over $100 million!!!  Very few charities or non-profit organizations see that kind of money in a year.  Even fewer don’t have to spend hours and hours of blood, sweat, and tears into asking and pleading for that money.

Not all are as successful.  Not all are leveraged the best way possible.  It’s easy to add a hashtag to your tweet, post, etc., but what are you ultimately trying to accomplish?  Awareness is always the answer.  Well. what is your definition of awareness?

In order to make real change, your message needs to extend beyond the cyber world and begin to become a part of everyone’s every day lives.  While I’m sure it is not impossible, it is difficult to make a long lasting impression using a hashtag.  How can you control the message behind your #?

I found a list of “hashtags that changed the world” from 2014.  What I ask is how many of these do you: (a) remember (b) do you remember the story behind why it started (c) do you feel the hashtag resulted in more than “awareness”?

  1. #yesallwomen
  2. #youoksis
  3. #bringbackourgirls
  4. #blacklivesmatter
  5. #stopgamergate
  6. #dudesgreetingdudes

I picked 6 of them.  Several I will honestly say I remember, a few I never heard of. Looking at all of them, I’m not sure anyone could call it effective. I don’t see any of the issues that #yesallwomen or #blacklivesmatter address being resolved almost a year later.  I remember #bringbackourgirls.  Powerful figureheads and celebrities from around the world joined in.  It was the plea that no one could deny is a good cause – bringing 200 girls who randomly disappeared back home to their families. Over a year later, what news has come from this?  Do you hear anything about it? Did you follow it after you sent your tweet out into the Twitterverse? My guess is probably not.  According to this article from CNN, over a year later, not only have the girls not been found but there has been nothing from the Nigerian government to show that anything has happened in the investigation.

I’m not anti-activism.  I’m not anti-social media.  I just think we need to move past building awareness and move towards getting shit done.  Get involved in the causes that you feel strongly about.  Volunteer if you can. If you aren’t sure where to start – Huffington Post has this article that offers 13 websites that will match you with an organization.  You can give money. Many people are nervous about giving money to an organization without knowing where their money will go.  (As someone that works in non-profits, I can tell you for profit, not for profit, administrative costs must be paid.  Non-profits do try very hard (if run correctly) to be good stewards of the funds they are given so you’ll never eliminate that all together). But you can use websites like Charity Navigator and Charity Watch (and many others) that rate non-profits for what they do with their money.  Depending on the organization’s tax status, their official tax forms might be public record so you can look and judge for yourself.

#s are great, but nothing is an equal substitute for blood, sweat, tears and cash to help with funding. What do you think?  Do you think that the hashtags are powerful or fluff?

Random Musings #anything Goes

8 comments on “Social Media Activism

  1. There is no substitute for face to face conversations and old fashioned campaigning. Social media can be part of that, but it tends to be a bit of an echo chamber as people self select individuals and sites they agree with. As the last UK election shows, social media and polls don’t give you an accurate indication of what people think. #anythinggoes

    • Totally agree with you Mrs. Tubbs. People have even referred to this as “vanity activism” because it makes people feel good to be recognized as caring about a cause without having to put out any effort. Hashtags don’t change the world – people in action change the world. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I agree about the shit needs to get done bit and some #s are just for the sake of it I guess. I started blogging to raise awareness, my daughter has TWO rare diseases. I have got our story “out there” as much as I could (Daily Mail, Mirror etc) and as a result more people than before have heard about these diseases and I’ve actually had messages from people now awaiting diagnoses because of reading my daughters story. She is at an increased risk of childhood cancer so if even one other person out there gets diagnosed as a result of my “awareness” and thus the screening they need I guess it’s all worth it 🙂
    Plus more medical professionals need to be aware too, that seems to be the general consesus, as it is difficult to diagnose, being so rare, so if it has more attention then that is surely good. Then money is secondary for funding much needed research.

    Anyway, sorry for the long comment! Just my thoughts 🙂 I’m the following post on #anythingoes 🙂 x

    • Thanks for stopping by Gianna. I agree that awareness is importance, but again without the action behind it, we don’t get as far. The awareness you are bringing is spurring people into action.

      I had endometriosis, which sadly isn’t a common condition, and my diagnosis was missed after my first surgery. I totally understand especially when it comes to medical conditions that awareness is the first step. The doing something – raising money for research and pushing people to go in for diagnosis when they know something is wrong is the byproduct of that awareness.

      Thank you for everything you do for your daughter and for countless other families. Good luck with everything. I’ll say a prayer for you.

  3. Great post. I agree, we have to do something as well as write about it. At least we are a bit ahead of the general public, we are aware, and mostly knowledgeable about many causes, but until we take it past Social Media it’s all just words. I’m sure that the words are put together beautifully, but all they are are words.

    • Well said Nikki! Beautiful words are just that, beautiful words. Hopefully some of those words are at least spurring a couple of people into action. Thanks for coming by! Hope to you again soon!

  4. I think that there is a time for awareness – if it’s something lesser known, but lets face it, who hasn’t heard of breast cancer? I think sometimes people use #s etc to say they did their bit without actually doing anything.
    I agree with your point about spending money to fit in with the go red type days – the charity would rather have the money you spent than see you walk around wearing a red t-shirt!
    I do think though that if you are short on money and this is all you can do, its better than nothing, as long as you are genuinely trying to help, not just using a # because its trending and you want to plug your latest post (on something non-related).
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

    • Thanks for stopping by Debbie! Agreed – awareness is good for lesser known things. I just think we are beginning to be a society that doesn’t back up our words with action. But yes, anything is better than nothing and as you mentioned, a lot of it boils down to the intent.

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