POWER OF THE PEOPLE
Are you making a difference?
Slacktivism: the practice of supporting a political or social cause by means such as social media or online petitions, characterized as involving very little effort or commitment.
Walking down Washington Street holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign, the protester walks with the support of social media. More specifically, walking with those that posted a blackout Tuesday post, added a petition to their story, or shared an infographic in support of the movement. Yet these hundreds of social media posts are not equal to the crowd at the march. For some, activism towards the movement appears to start and end online, as those that posted do not necessarily physically show up and demonstrate their support. This has been dubbed, “Slacktivism.” But for junior Madi Edwards, her activism does not come from outside pressure, rather the causes that she cares about.
“I choose to support these movements and the people they stand for because, to me, it is morally correct,” Edwards said. “I’m an empathetic person and I believe that there is a good cause behind each of these movements and they were created out of need.”
Edwards has been an advocate for feminism and LGBTQ rights for years, but has recently shifted her focus to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Junior Jack Wright shares Edwards’ passion for advocacy, supporting the BLM movement, but also sharing his opinions on healthcare policies. Wright fears, however, that his efforts might go unnoticed, as action towards improvement may be hindered by the recent rise in activism through social media.
“Overall, I can’t complain too much about the way teens are handling politics nowadays because it is getting an important message out there,” Wright said. “My one criticism is that a number of people treat politics and human rights as a trend.”
Wright also acknowledges that some of this advocacy on social media may be the result of societal pressures, and while he sees it as an invalid reason to show one’s support, he also recognizes that it is still spreading awareness.
“With a post, the best thing you can do is educate somebody about what is happening,” Wright said. “However with a donation, you could potentially help someone live a better life.”
Freshman Gabriella Graham appreciates Wright’s emphasis on donating rather than posting, and she encourages others to follow in his lead.
“Slacktivism is people who think that just posting things on the Internet is going to fix everything, and they won’t do anything else like attending protests, or they won’t donate to any organizations,” Graham said. “They [should] put in the effort to do [something] besides posting things.”
While Graham prefers that people take action to support a movement, she understands that slacktivism may be caused by individuals that don’t have the means to take action.
“Some people don’t have the resources to donate,” Graham said. “Sometimes they don’t have enough information to know when and where protests are happening, or they might not have the financial stability to be able to donate to organizations.”
Even if they do have the means, Graham does not necessarily view social media as a negative platform for advocacy, because she recognizes that ‘spreading awareness in any form is still spreading awareness.’
“We have so much access to the Internet now; there’s a lot of news and media out there and makes it easier to do instead of actively doing something about it,” Graham said.
Junior Cynthia Hernandez is one of these individuals that is looking to contribute by taking advantage of her social media platform, sharing information that she finds important.
“Although I can’t make a huge impact on [protesting] as an individual, I can help make an impact on individual people,” Hernandez said. “I do not hesitate in spreading awareness and posting important information, and I like to help educate people on what’s happening and why it’s important.”
Social media has played a large role for Hernandez in the spread of information regarding the movements she supports such as Anti-ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Likewise, Edwards has also taken to her social media to advocate for various movements, of which includes BLM.
“Social media has been a big factor in the BLM movement. In that it has been a way to share stories, experiences, videos, pictures, etc. in order to bring attention to the things that are happening,” Edwards said.
Although social media has made positive contributions to slacktivism and activism, Wright takes precautions when posting on social media and recognizes that slacktivism can make a positive impact, as long as the information is accurate.
“While I am happy that more light is getting shed on the harsh reality of the world, a lot of false information can get spread,” Wright said. “The only way a social media post is a good contribution is if it is proven to be 100% true.”
Graham continues to encourage donating and protesting, rather than sharing opinions.
“Information and facts can be twisted and a lot of opinions can be thrown out there and people can be offended,” Graham said. “I don’t want to be hypocritical since I do post a lot on my Instagram, but I also attend protests and donate to organizations if I can.”
As teens continue to turn to slacktivism to share their beliefs, some are doing their best to back up their social media with physical representation, or sharing resources that are factual and supportive to help make a difference.
“Every signature counts and good eventually makes an impact. I wasn’t able to go out to any BLM protests because of COVID-19 but I’m proud of everyone who did,” Hernandez said. “Spread information, help others see what’s going on, sign petitions, go protest and donate. It’s not over. There is so much room for improvement left in our country.”
Black Lives Matter
Sitting in his room, heart racing, a student works up the courage to open a troubling viral video. Filled with thoughts of fear and hope for the future, he gains the motivation to make a social media post, protesting his beliefs. Senior Deshawn Austin has always been passionate about the “Black Lives Matter Movement,” but recent societal events have caused an improvement in his political activism.
“I am a person of color and recently things were really bad. I got into it a lot more and educated myself more,” Austin said. “Black Lives Matter has always been an issue.”
Austin has seen a boost in social media posts since various videos have appeared on the internet, including that of George Floyd.
“[Social media] has contributed in a big way especially in June. A lot of people were really vocal about George Floyd being killed and there were a lot of posts about it on Instagram,” Austin said.
In addition to the recent boost in BLM posts, “Blue Lives Matter” posts have also become more common. Austin feels there should be no debate over the movement.
“It really comes down to the idea of not killing people. It’s just that simple,” Austin said. “I feel like there’s a right and a wrong to this idea, and I obviously lean toward one side but like if another race is being killed, I will always side with the people and not the ones that are killing. I feel like some people don’t care because it’s not affecting them.”
Blue Lives Matter
According to the Blue Lives Matter website, the Blue Lives Matter Movement began in December of 2014 to support the New York Police Department in response to a violent protest. The movement, however, has since evolved, and senior Reed Duncan shows his support for the police department by backing the message of the Thin Blue Line, an effort to support his father, a local police officer.
“I don’t see any opposing side to Blue Lives Matter except people who would say that all cops are bad and the police should be defunded,” Duncan said. “I respect their opinion, but I disagree with it because without officers, there would be nobody to keep the peace. Duncan does not oppose the “Black Lives Matter” movement, but believes in the protection of police officers.
“I am not for any one movement alone, and I believe God created everybody equal and we should all do a much better job of loving each other despite our physical and cultural differences,” Duncan said.