There is no doubt in my mind that social media is an important aspect of our everyday life. And to some it becomes a way to change it for the better.
Social Media is not a barren, lifeless wasteland.
Thinking of social media as just an area for planning protests is an utterly ignorant and fruitless ideology. It is also a real world landscape for protests to be made. Corporations should be as nervous of hashtags as they are of riots. Government officials should know more about the Internet, since they are the ones who are being roasted by the users of it.
Social media is grounds for change.
Being a straight white male, I cannot possibly imagine what it is like to have to face the kind of oppression that the #BlackLivesMatter group is fighting, but I can observe what they are fighting against. This creates a dialogue that was otherwise unknown. We can see videos, we can hear accounts from others who are experiencing the damages of a minority. And the important thing is that you can interpret it how you choose. Social media is a source for raw material, some true, some false. Regardless of what you are seeing, media outlets have always had a bias on which political side to choose. That is not the same with the Internet. Though, with Facebook it is gradually becoming a more and more that way, as is seen on this Gizmodo article. That being said...
The Internet isn't just for a liberal side.
Donald Trump. Yes. Donald Trump. The name brings fear to all liberals, and frankly, many conservatives. Like his policies or not, he has had a firm grasp on the modern social media arena. He may not truly understand the Internet, or how untrustworthy it can be, but he sure knows how to milk it. His Twitter page is full of agenda pushing, and often racist dialogue. This campaign has been noteworthy in many ways. The most relevant way is that both major parties are adopting a technology-first approach to their campaigns. In the previous two elections, Barack Obama has been the more tech-savvy of the campaigns. But at the moment, Trump has even more of a social media presence than Hillary Clinton does.
How it works in its prime.
- Social media post
- Hashtag development
- Physical action in the "real world"
Not just any controversial or progressive post is social media activism.
Your aunt might write a post saying that there is no proof that Albert Einstein liked immigrants (a funny sentiment, as he was one). That might be a controversial topic that many may agree on, but that doesn't make it activism. Just as your racist aunt may say that in real life over a delicious and fattening Thanksgiving dinner, that doesn't make her a protester of the status quo.
Then what is?
The only difference between the social media landscape, and what we think of as 'the real world' is that there is a wider spread message on social media than there would be over dinner. We have to remember that the Internet is still a space that life resides in. It is an extension of real life. So there is no escaping that bullying online is an issue, and stalking on Facebook is equally as creepy as it is in real life. We now use our phones as banks to deposit checks in. We use the internet as a movie theater. And just like we have changed many of our other physical spaces to a digital world, so too are we using the digital world to change our physical spaces.