Why Social Media Activism Is Not A Cop-Out

Why Social Media Activism Is Not A Cop-Out

Social Media Activism, or Hashtagactivism, is getting things done everywhere.
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Hashtagactivism. Also called social media activism, or internet activism. Most people have participated in it even if they haven't. If you ever talked about #Kony2012, liked a post about Michelle Obama's #BringBackOurGirls, or tweeted about #BlackLivesMatter, you have participated in internet activism.

So you may be wondering, what exactly is Hashtagactivism. According to author of @ is for Activism: Dissent, Resistance and Rebellion in a Digital Culture, Joss Hands, Hashtagactivism “supporting and creating awareness on social issues via social media sites and networks.” To be a social activist is easy. The majority of it is retweeting something with a hashtag that your followers will see or responding to an article about a certain issue. The point is to share these issues with your social media friends and followers in hopes that they spread it to their friends and followers. This sharing of ideas helps issues get around and inspire people to think about their opinions on them.

Social media activism is effective because it allows people to voice their opinions and get educated in a plethora of social issues. How does it do that you ask? Because most social media sites are fairly easy to use. For Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, you post, add a couple of hashtags and/or filters and you are good to go. Hashtag activism is also effective because it arguably gives the most underrepresented voice, millennials, a chance to voice their opinions, get heard, and be at the forefront of great change. And lastly, it is effective because social media activism is able to reach so many people very quickly. I personally keep track of a lot of things via social media because it is constantly being updated in real time by real people and not potentially biased media outlets (looking at you, Fox News).

In recent history, social media activism has gotten a lot done. For example #IStandWithPP. #IStandWithPP was created by and in support with the millions of American women who go to Planned Parenthood for a multitude of reproductive health service. Services that also include abortion. In what the Washington Post says was a highly political move, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, known for their extensive research on breast cancer, decided to cut nearly 700,000 dollars in funding from Planned Parenthood. Social media users took to their platforms and stood up for the women that would be affected by this cut as well as the huge step back in women’s rights. This hashtag described how people felt about the decision to revoke this funding. In response, the Komen Foundation restored the funding and issued an apology.

Another example would be #Ferguson. #Ferguson was created after the murder of Michael Brown by Ferguson officer, Darren Wilson, and the unrest that ensued after he was not indicted. In the story of Twitter activist, Deray Mckesson @deray on Twitter, he left his home in Minnesota to be a part of the protests that we going on in Ferguson. By tweeting and finding other users who were using #Ferguson, we were able to find housing and plan protests as well as give first-hand accounts of what was happening in Ferguson for people who were not there, such as myself.

As any true hashtag activist knows, there are two sides to every argument, this one included. There are some that think social media activism is for people who are too lazy to "actually do something about it". Many people, including the binge-tastic director Shonda Rhimes, have said such things. In Rhimes’ commencement speech at her alma mater, Dartmouth College, she said “A hashtag does not change anything.” and created a hashtag of her own “#StopPretendingHashtagsAreTheSameAsDoingSomething. (I thought this was funny because she uses hashtags to spread awareness about her shows.) What she, and many others, fail to understand, social activism IS doing something. It is raising awareness that leads to action and things being changed on national and international scales.

Social media activism isn't a cop-out for activism as we used to know it. Not everyone can take a day off and strike or occupy a building. Social media makes activism accessible to everyone, especially millennials.

Cover Image Credit: skilledup.com

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'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

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Educate Yourself And Spread Facts, Not Bias

Do you know the truth? Or are you allowing rumors to cloud your judgement of the political arena?

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In our society, the government has grown to be a capitalistic effort. Payout, backroom deals, we are unaware of many actions those that represent us take behind closed doors. The transparency we think we see is unrealistic and just not the way that politics actually work. In the entire world, governance has become essential to the survival and future of society. No two governments are the same, and they are essentially ever changing as many people of power change constantly.

This being said influence from these individuals rule the political sphere. Whether it be a local councilperson, senator, governor, or even the president.IN the U.S. our daily lives and wellbeing rest in the hands of the few. Some of these politicians are honest and work genuinely for the people. However, agenda frequently takes over the arena and leaves the decisions of our livelihood to the gains of politicians.

Our generation has the lowest voter turnout, leaving the decisions that we do have to older generations. Some of those hold ideologies that are not relevant nor acceptable to the climate we live in today. This is not a call to action but more of a thought. As someone who was incredibly uninvolved in politics, I wanted to look at why I lacked the care that other people my age held so passionately. I believe it starts with my distaste of conflict, which many people my age also agree with. Politics can lead to confrontation and negative conversation.

Therefore, who would want to make friendships and interactions awkward with an avoidable subject. I found myself straying from these conversations and becoming uncomfortable when friends assert opinions that I do not agree with. However, in taking classes where this environment hinges the change in industries I study. I was forced to form some type of opinion in the matter.

From here I decided to change the lens on how I looked at politics. Instead of shying away, I really listened to what my professors felt about it and their assertions. I then did my own research, looking into the history of matters that my peers and professors talked about. Educating myself on what the facts were, versus believing in rumors that I heard through the grapevine.

I started engaging friends in a positive manner, as opposing opinions are valuable in a holistic situational viewpoint. I became comfortable in the discomfort of politics and worked to learn what may be in store for our world. My point for this is to educate yourself on genuine fact. Do not assert opinions based on information that your friend or even a professor gives you, keep your knowledge on the subject relevant.

You never know when legislation may come out that seriously effects your way of life. Most importantly, knowledge is power and power is what those that leave us in ignorance have over us.

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