Social media activism: Yay or Nay?

Growing up, I could not wait to be an adult. I was eager to explore the world, find myself, and to just do adult things. When my parents and elders noticed that I was rushing my childhood, they would say “do not rush your childhood, you are an adult longer than you are a child”. I took that statement with a grain of salt because the only thing on my adolescent mind was not having a curfew. 

As a young adult woman, I look back at those moments, laugh, and somewhat shed a tear because my parents were right. I should not have rushed my childhood. Among the other things I can say about adulthood, for the sake of this post, I will just say that adulthood is extremely exhausting and that TV lied to me. 

In the midst of paying bills, trying to stay healthy, working, and a plethora of other things, there is a constant reminder of the various injustices of the world.  

Image from wikipedia.

Social media activism: Is it a trend? 

Social media open doors for people to actively engage in social issues. According to the Pew Research, 34% of Americans have taken part in a group on social media that shares civic issues, while 32% of Americans have encouraged others to taken action on issues that is important to them. Furthermore, studies have shown that Americans from the ages to 18-49 are more likely than ages 50 and up to change their profile picture to show solidarity.

While social media activism helps spread awareness at a quicker rate, there is also a fine line between genuine and performative activism. Deciphering between the two can be difficult because everyone deserves the right to share their personal opinions, beliefs, and experiences in relations to current events. 

Performative activism helps businesses stay afloat. Yes, that statement sounds a little backwards but I have a few examples that will help to support this claim. During pride month, businesses all across America display support for theLGBTQIA+ community by placing pride flags on shopping bags, storefronts, and on their online websites. By the following month, those same companies take everything pride related down. Similarly, during the George Floyd protest in 2020, businesses supported the Black Lives Matter movement by creating poster boards and commercials to show their allyship, while also lacking in diversity and resources for their black workers. 

Image from abc news to depict the White House in solidarity for black lives matter.

With genuine and performative activism having blurred lines, here are a few tips to help notice the differences:

Genuine social media activism

Image from the Pew Research Center.

Performative social media activism

Activism, social media, and mental health: We

need a break!

Social media alone can be a daunting place and when you add issues of civic unrest, it can make you want to rip your head off.

The first time I felt and experienced emotional drainage from social media and its politics was during George Floydprotest in 2020. 

I was exhausted from seeing how people carelessly and recklessly shared George Floyd’s lifeless body all over the Internet, and most importantly, how people used his name and death to make money. All three of those factors drove me to my limit. 

Seeing people leave racist comments on Instagram and Facebook about George Floyd’s death triggered me severely. I asked myself “how can I use this moment to evoke change.” I began to type an entire sermon and I quickly realized that my mental health and sanity is much more important than trying to change the minds of opposing views. In that moment, I decided to put myself first and take a break from social media. 

Salwa Abdul Hadi, a gender equality advocate & an empathetic, humanistic and heart centered leader and coach to Socially mission driven female entrepreneurs gives a mini anecdote of how she feels in regards to activism.

“I recently ran a campaign online to celebrate strong women in Islam and distill the societal expectations of women within Muslim communities. It was very successful, I interviewed 13 Inspirational Muslim leaders in politics, medicine and business and rising stars. However, almost immediately I fell ill for 2 weeks as I had really pushed myself and the fear of not being accepted and standing against authority. I feel exhausted mentally and physically, yet I am determined to persevere and InshAllah take it more out into the community physically one day soon,” Abdul Hadi shared her recent experience with feeling burnout due to her work online”.

Salwa Abdul Hadi (2021). 

Anomal Irfran, a blogger, conducted a series of interviews to find out the correlation between activism and mental health and the results were not pretty. Many activist made the claim that belonging to a community that gets targeted everyday is scary because you do not know if you or a loved one is next. Social media activist feel pressured by society to immediately hit the streets and protest. 

My advice to those who experience sadness from being a social media activist or someone who simply wants to follow current news, I have listed a few ways that could help ease those emotions: 

Civic engagement is important because it helps the voices and minds of individuals who are interested in being apart of a movement that evokes change. Living in the age of social media, activism has taken on a new face, that is called social media activism. With genuine and performative presenting both pros and cons for the social justice community, it is extremely hard to notice the differences.

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