Social media has affected everyone’s lives one way or another, even political campaigning, advertising, and communication between family and friends. However, one aspect that I didn’t think too much of that social media has had a huge impact on is activism, how one fights or raises awareness for events or charities that they believe in. The internet has had such an impact that there is a new terminology associated with internet activism, which is called “Digital Activism” compare to the traditional way “Social Activism”. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica, Digital Activism is a “form of activism that uses the Internet and digital media as key platforms for mass mobilisation and political action”(1) whereas Social Activism uses more the old fashion way of creating posters, flyers, petitions, and radio interviews for political action (2).
There has been major debates about whether or not this new movement of Digital Activism is actually helpful or effective in its purpose compare to Social Activism. Many have actually related Social Activism to ‘Slacktivism’ because there is less of a physical attribute to certain causes, and how it is too easy to press ‘like’ on a post but not really do anything about it (2). I personally believe that Social and Digital Activism function together, so as a pair work a lot more efficiently. I do not see it as one platform and then the other but more how each kind helps each other build their own movements.
By both kinds of activism working together, Digital Activism actually allows organisers to mobilise more quickly large groups of people, draw media attention to certain causes and more efficiently, and an easier way to access information about causes and events (3). The internet actually helps to share information to a broader audience such as on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram that perhaps with only flyers or posters, would never have been able to reach otherwise. Even if it is harder to physically do something about a certain cause online, just by people becoming more aware of the issue at hand can motivate others to take action.
This complementary relationship can be seen in this Twitter post down below, where “OneProtest” posted about a girl randomly passing by and decided to join in the protest. By sharing this experience online, more people will be aware about the issue but also potentially encourage others to pass by and help out as well. In a way it is actually motivating others to join into the cause actively in person as well as online.
However, some would argue that this would not make much of a difference for that those who help online are not as passionate as those who act in person. Those who are more part of social activism are seen as more dedicated to the cause compare to digital activists can be interested for a short amount of time but does not become a priority. This dedication can be seen during the civil rights movement, however not all who attended are dedicated activists, they were probably those who were up for only the one-time commitment (3). Some may continue to argue that such one-time commitment could put the person at risk but so can online involvement, one could get arrested by the government for what they post on social media. Hence, no matter the situation or type of activism, there will always be a different levels of how passionate or involved an activist is.
I believe that digital activism in a way also builds a sense of community, because instead of just the people who are affected caring, it can be shared to others around the globe. However, some contradict this statement by saying that these ‘relationships’ are just superficial and weak, and not many will actively participate (4). I disagree with this for that I think that Facebook or Twitter actually make it easier to communicate and keep strong relationship with others. In addition, this causes movements to be less hierarchical, meaning not one person has all the power, but more of a network. By being more of a network, it makes it harder for it to be shut-down or break down from terrible leadership. The power is more evenly distributed and its harder for the government to control the story or movement. This is a limitation that social activism can face, they can easily be controlled, censored or shut down by authorities or the government.
Digital Activism still has a lot more to develop and offer to society. It is something that is still growing just as technology is. In time, hopefully the internet will be more accessible to other parts of the world and bring more change. Digital and social activism can work together to create successful movements.
(1) Marcela A. Fuentes, “Digital Activism,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, last accessed February 15, 2018, https://www.britannica.com/topic/digital-activism
(2) Dr. Maximilian C. Forte, “Digital Activism Versus Traditional Activism,” WordPress, published October 1, 2010,https://webography.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/digital-activism-versus-traditional-activism/
(3) Jillian C. York, “The False Poles of Digital and Traditional Activism,” Jilliancyork.com, published September 27, 2010, http://jilliancyork.com/2010/09/27/the-false-poles-of-digital-and-traditional-activism/
(4) R.A., “Can You Social Network Your Way To Revolution?,” The Economist, published September 27, 2010, https://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2010/09/information