Let me start off by saying that I’m hyper-aware of the irony in expressing my frustrations with the internet and social platforms using those very things as the vehicle to get my message across. Fitting though, as that is the nature of this beast, the internet.
Because I am a person who publishes writing on the internet in hopes that people will read and share, I am well versed in the positive (and fast! and effective!) impact that social media has. Surely this massive platform, accessible constantly by fingertips alone, allows us entry to a portal we otherwise would not be privy to. The exchange of ideas, thoughts, and opinions, as well as the process of education and enlightenment has been streamlined. Often I am impressed with the power of a “share”: information is conveyed to users faster than news outlets are capable; the generosity of strangers via crowd-funding campaigns continues to warm my heart.
Despite this, I encourage others to recognize that their Facebook newsfeed and social media in its entirety is not the beginning and end of social activism (or discourse in general).
Allow me to share a personal anecdote wherein I was disappointed by humanity’s relationship with how they use the internet:
I recently assisted a friend with the production of a fundraiser to raise money for a family whose terminally ill son had recently passed. This fundraiser was executed in tandem with the restaurant we both work at. To garner funding, customers simply had to print out a coupon we designed and present it to us at the time of bill pay. A portion of their total would be donated to the foundation created in the son’s name. Through the promotion on our restaurant’s Facebook page and a small town’s willingness to spread news (this time, a blessing) our flyer was incredibly wide-spread. App analytics told me that through all the engagements (for the sake of specificity, 92 “reactions”, 9 comments, and 161 shares) approximately 13,042 people saw this flier.
It’s unfair to assume that these analytics would mean a guaranteed attendance of over ten thousand people in support of this fundraiser. Scheduling, distance, and capacity would not allow such a thing. Now to be fair, each time our post was shared, we received more exposure. Surely, this is an important part in the exchange of knowledge and in allowing so many to be aware of our efforts. But sometimes it is simply not enough. Our fundraiser was moderately well attended, but the execution was not as grand as the internet reception had us believe. Of course, any amount of funding is helpful and went to a good cause, but in sincerity, we did not reach the goal we had set in anticipation for the day.
It’s easy to “like” a post or pass the word on to all of your Facebook friends. Sharing an image takes no effort and allows your network to be privy to an experience or cause you care about. But if taking action ceases when you close out an app, a chasm is left in its place.
Consider this to be a call to action: make an attempt to expand your activism beyond the cyber sphere. Change does happen as the result of online efforts, but not exclusively, and in an increasingly digital age, we mustn’t forget that.
Lots of love,