Social Media Activism: I Like It to Mean Something

Julie Marsh

Julie Marsh
Julie Mar

Show of hands: How many readers of The Stir posted "where they like it" in their Facebook status this month?

A reprisal of last year's bra color Facebook meme, these cryptic statuses refer to where women like to keep their handbag. They're intentionally titillating -- who's going to say they like to keep their handbag on the bed or in the shower? -- and they're supposed to "raise awareness" of breast cancer.

Revealing the preferred location of your handbag relates to breast cancer awareness ... how? At least the bra color statuses were tangentially related, though unintentionally offensive to double mastectomy survivors.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign has created a Facebook app for National Coming Out Day that allows users to "donate" their status to promote LGBT equality. And who can forget the myriad statuses purporting to raise awareness of autism or premature birth or rampant stupidity, concluding with a guilt trip buttressed by fabricated statistics: "93% of users won't have the courage to post this as their status. Will you?"

It's examples like this that give Malcolm Gladwell credibility in his assertion that social media activism is hollow and meaningless.

I'll allow that it can be courageous for Facebook users to donate their status to National Coming Out Day or other LGBT equality efforts -- if your friends and family don't already know that you support LGBT equality. For me to post my support in my status would be redundant and lazy, given how much I've already written about the topic. But if I saw it in some of my friends' updates -- especially among my fellow former military service members -- I would sit up and take notice and send them a virtual high five.

What bothers me about efforts such as these is that they masquerade as activism and give naysayers like Gladwell ammunition against those of us who really are working to change the world via words, using social media channels for delivery.

Donate your status, slap a magnetic ribbon on your car, put a Twibbon on your avatar if it makes you feel good. But do something more too: Talk about it, write about it, volunteer your time, donate your money. Raise funds and run a race. Call your political representatives to express your support for legislation or federal funding. Activism requires action

If you want to support breast cancer research, join the Army of Women and explore research studies you may qualify for.

If you want to support LGBT equality, volunteer with Human Rights Campaign. They have opportunities in most major metro areas.

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