Armchair Activism: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of Your Internet Politics

Armchair Activism: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly Of Your Internet Politics

Ready to get off Facebook and start engaging real change?
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The recent rise in social media posts about politics and social justice, widely known as “internet activism” or “clicktivism,” has paved the way for new methods to respond to and engage political action on the individual, grassroots, local, federal, and even international level.

Internet activism has inevitably spread awareness of social issues such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and more, as well as changed social landscapes of global accessibility to social justice and activism, even going as far as social media campaign spillover to political and public policy legislative action. While the impact of internet activism is certainly undeniable, there is a dark side of internet politics that often goes undiscussed.

As social justice and political rhetoric on the internet become increasingly prominent in activist fields, discussions have shifted to criticism of the effectiveness of internet activism. Emerging criticisms of academics and activists alike have centered the ability of internet activism to actually achieve grassroots change. Many critics and social-media skeptics worry that internet activism is creating a new-wave of individuals who posit themselves as activists for posting on social media about politics and social change, when they are not actually creating any political or social outcomes. This is called armchair activism.

Armchair activism, or “slacktivism,” as it is also known, is a dangerous form of media politics. Often times, armchair activists believe that posting about Black Lives Matter or reproductive rights on Facebook creates change in of itself. This is problematic, because the poster often feels as though they have created a change, or contributed meaningfully to a social movement. And while, in a vacuum, this is not necessarily untrue, the individual in question feels as though this obfuscates them of actual, physical activism.

This belief that social media activism by itself creates a real, physical change, is a slippery slope. Take the Black Lives Matter movement, for example. The media campaign of BLM has clearly had a huge impact on spreading awareness and gathering support and allies for the movement. BLM’s internet presence has undoubtedly created at least some change. But, the real and most meaningful change BLM has made is in physical activist spaces; rallies, protests, etc. This is a key distinction. While posting about BLM clearly spreads knowledge about the movement, white people expressing solidarity on Facebook should never be conflated with the actual change achieved by PoC positing their livelihoods and fighting on the front lines of the movement for racial justice.

This is important: you posting that you, as a student of a given University “stand in solidarity” with black students at Missou or Ithica does not efface the same change as the students physically protesting and creating activist spaces at those institutions.

Posting and discussing politics and social issues on social media has become a cornerstone of free speech and democracy. And while it would be incorrect to say that internet activism does not preclude real change, it is only part of the puzzle. Activism and social justice is not a stasis point or an end point. It is a continually evolving politics of change. It requires precision, openness, checking of privilege and social location, and creating and opening spaces for minority voices to share their narratives. Internet activism does not have to be armchair activism. In fact, internet activism is a great way to raise awareness, organize individuals, and even efface policy change through tactics that influence and shift public perceptions of social issues.

But internet activism needs to be used as a tool for mobilization, rather than a means to an end. Internet activism should be used as a starting place for other forms of activism and discussions. In order for internet activism to be effective, or hold any revolutionary potential, it must be seen as a contingency in the ever-growing history book of social justice, and not just the period at the end of a sentence. So continue to post, continue to share, and continue to diffuse your ideas. But also go out and help; join a rally or a protest, organize your friends or community, donate $10 to Planned Parenthood or the ACLU.

The root of social change stems from education and knowledge. In the interest of further educating individuals on this perspective, here’s some suggest articles from the Atlantic and the Guardian that do a good job of explain and elaborating on the politics of armchair activism.

The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/apr/11/bridget-christie- armchair-activist

The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/04/unicef-tells- slacktivists-give-money-not- facebook-likes/275429/

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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Dear America, We Can Step Forward As A Country If We Stop Believing That Only One Belief Is Valid

It's time to promote unity and emphasize our commonalities because only through unity can we step forward as a country.

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Dear America,

2018 was a year of political strife and conflict. The left and the right fought constantly. Republicans and Democrats blamed each other for the tiniest mistakes, and there were only a small number of successful bipartisan deals. Politicians and citizens alike seemed more concerned with sticking to party platforms, even ones they truly didn't believe in, rather than compromising with the other side to improve our society.Yet all this name-calling and hatred — what does it do in the end? What does it accomplish?

We've only seen an increased polarization of American politics and an expanded hostility towards "the other side." We don't consider the well-being of each and every person in America and the bettering of our society, or the building of a stronger world for our children and grandchildren.

We spend so much time insulting each other's political beliefs that we forget probably the most important fact that links us all together: We are all human. We all share the same basic needs, the same struggles, the same moments of happiness and sadness.

And yet we are willing to put our similarities aside and only focus on our differences. We are willing to thrust ourselves into the deep anger and loathing that comes in attacking those different from us. We are willing to parry insults behind the safety of a phone screen and forget all about what makes us alike. And we are willing to gloss over the fact that we have more similarities than differences.

SEE ALSO: Dear Trump, Thanks For Transforming Me Into A Responsible, Educated Citizen

Yes, political beliefs make a person. Political beliefs define the values, ideas and thoughts of a person. But sometimes, we have to reach over those beliefs, as hard as that may be, and focus on the bigger picture at hand. What will insulting someone because of those beliefs do? It definitely won't change their views or make them see things from your point of view.

It's sad and frustrating that this endless fighting doesn't even occur between two countries or two governments or two nation-states. Instead, we see arguments and strife between two family members, two neighbors or even two strangers, all living in the same community and under the same government, all sharing more similarities than differences.

We need to stop focusing so much on singular ideas. We need to stop believing in the close-minded idea that only one thought is the best thought. And instead of wasting energy trying to change other's opinions, we need to use that energy and time to promote unity and emphasize our commonalities.

These past few years have truly divided America. Let's make 2019 a year of unity, because only through unity can we step forward as a country.

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