Hafsa Fathima, II Year MA English
My twitter feed is, on most days, a mess.
I log on at least thrice a day to scroll down an endless mix of gifs and bot accounts and promotions, occasionally pausing to discuss (now confirmed) Jon Snow parentage theories with a friend in all caps. Like other platforms of social media, I signed up for it as a way to unwind and subtweet passive aggressively about various people.
In the last couple of years, with the events have occurred and shaped the world we live in, the way I interact with these mediums has changed. Hashtags like #PrayforJapan and #OrlandoShootings dominate my screen in time of crisis, alerting to me to what’s going on and giving me updates in real time. I look to sites like Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook not just for the news, but for what comes after it; a place where aid is offered, where activism comes to forefront, and once the dust has settled, where the dialogue begins.
I’ve heard people scoff at what they consider “hashtag activism,” dismissing it an inert movement perpetuated by a group of people too lethargic to get off their keyboards and incite any real change. I would like to take the liberty of scoffing back and refusing to concur.
We don’t have to look farther than home to see the impact activism on social media can have; it came to rescue a city that was submerged by floods with hundreds of people spreading information about camps, food and money through the Internet. Social media has also been responsible for helping people understand issues beyond their borders; a large part of the campaigning for the #TheBlackLivesMatter movement happened virtually, and brought international attention to growing issue of police brutality. Blogging sites like Tumblr have not only offered safe spaces to the queer youth, but bloggers hold events like Bi Day and TransBlackOut, where LGBTQ individuals have a larger platform to share their stories and answer questions. For every troll I’ve witnessed, I’ve seen people stand up and fight back against the prejudice and stereotyping that can come from ignorance and the safety of anonymity. The response to the shootings in Orlando on my feed were those of grief, outrage, and most importantly, of people sharing posts and articles of how the shooter was completely distinct from the religion he claimed to follow, and to not succumb to Islamophobia.
A rainbow tinged profile picture or sharing a Gaurdian article may not get any legislatures passed, but it does show that you’re conscious of the issues around you, and you care. Social media activism is not the only path to achieving change, but it is an important first step.
[Photograph Source: Internet.]