Let me begin by saying that I love social media. What's not to love right? Whatsapp lets us stay connected with our close ones. Instagram allows us to stalk people we are secretly interested in. Uhmm, not that I stalk anyone. Moving on to the topic at hand, how many of you identify yourselves as social media activists? What makes one an activist? And can it even be compared to the conventional methods of activism?
What is social media activism anyway?
I don't believe I have to give a concise definition here. After all, I have absolutely no desire to put you to sleep. Anyway, it does mean different things to different people. To me, activism is equivalent to action. An activist, be it in social media or otherwise, need to take some concrete action to call themselves that. So, can you really call yourself one by sharing a few statuses or posts? I'll discuss that in detail later on. Thank you for being patient with me.
Why am I talking about it anyway?
It has been a tumultuous two weeks. Tragic incidents have led to people protesting through social media. George Floyd's death sparked a new trend: #Blacklivesmatter. It does matter. But do the ones posting about it really grasp the situation? Are they really concerned about the death of a man based purely on his skin colour or are they just posting it because everyone is? Can the ones posting about it truly claim they have never been racist in their entire lives? Have they never judged someone on the basis of how darkly pigmented his/her skin colour is? How many dark-skinned boys/girls have been nicknamed kalu/kaali? The wheatish ones are called "saavle" and the fair ones "gora/gori". As if that's the only thing that defines them. You may think, "This doesn't have anything to do with posting against a murder. I would never kill someone." Not being a murderer is nothing to be proud of. It does NOT make you an anti-racist person.
Yet another incident was the pregnant elephant dying from cracker filled pineapple. I was as shocked as you were. Human cruelty knows no bounds does it? I was all huffed up in righteous indignation. I was getting ready to post about it when I saw some very interesting takes on the issue.
Concerned activists claimed that the incident happened in Malappuram district of Kerala. The handiwork of Muslims. (Ah, the age-old Hindu-Muslim rivalry).
Kerala is the most literate state. And still, something like this happened? The literacy rate is surely to blame. Ha!
The death of the elephant was not a pressing concern for them. Giving the issue a communal angle and attacking a positive aspect of a whole state were the important concerns. Lovely.
Social media protests have reduced her identity to that of a pregnant woman not getting bail. She has even been compared to the dead elephant. I don't think that makes an elegant comparison. Do you? Pregnant or not, no one deserves to be treated like that.
What maketh a social media activist?
Let me tell you what all factors do not make you one.
Sharing one or two posts about random trending news. Activism needs consistency and dedication.
Shaming others for not posting the same stuff you did. Not everyone can speak out about every issue. Some causes are closer to your heart than others. Pressuring others to react is not your right. All you can do is put out your opinions. Different individuals have different tastes. That goes for social injustices too.
Hypocrisy. To be taken seriously, credibility is important. The best example that I can give right now is the celebrities drawing flak for talking against racism while endorsing fairness products. Sorry, you can't have a foot in both camps.
Blindly sharing something before verifying it or without having insufficient knowledge about it. Neither does sharing something unverified just because it satisfies your set of ideals. Activist or not, sharing fake news for your personal self-satisfaction is inexcusable. You are responsible for what you put out.
Activism is important. And the very first step is looking into yourself. What cause speaks to you the most? What makes your blood boil? What makes you passionate enough? Do not give yourself a pat on your back just because you happen to share a few "woke" posts. It doesn't make you special. Neither does having some semblance of human decency. That said, you have no obligation to become an activist. Just being a socially responsible human being is enough. After all, change begins with the individual.