What Is Online Activism
In the heart of technology, we’ve seen a new phenomenon develop online called ‘digital activism’ or ‘online activism’. Merging both our technological advancements and our political climate into one, this form of activism established a place in society, starting in the early ’90s with a product called Lotus MarketPlace.
The History of Online Activism
In April 1990, Lotus MarketPlace wanted to revolutionize the marketing list industry. The product was to collect the names, addresses, and spending information of over 120 million Americans. Which led concerned consumers via message boards and Email (remember this was 1990!) to band together and ask to be removed from their database. Eventually 30,000 people got on board and by early 1991, due to the controversy, Lotus decided to disband the project. This is what we now know today as the first online protest.
There has been some controversy surrounding online activism. Some people believe it isn’t good enough. That it is ‘slactivism‘ and involves little to-no effort. While some believe it is a valid way to protest and bring support to important causes. Simply liking a post on Facebook or changing your profile picture in solidarity may not inherently help, but it may spark a conversation, bringing more awareness to your cause.
Something that has been directly born from online activism is, ‘hashtag activism‘. Notably #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #TakeAKnee and many more movements were all created online. The #BlackLivesMatter Movement in particular was created in 2013 by three Black organizers (Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi), after the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. Six years later, BLM is still a trailblazing movement for both online and offline activism alike.
Something like #BlackLivesMatter is an entire movement on and offline. Where as something like #Kony2012 (a bit of a throwback, right?) didn’t accomplish much. Kony 2012 was a video uploaded on YouTube by an organization called Invisible Children, which aimed to raise awareness of a Warlord named Joseph Kony.
The video went viral and the organization raised 28 million dollars. But fast forward years later, the public interest wore down, and Joseph Kony still remains at large. Which begs the question, once you amass a following, what do you do with it?
If done right, online activism can be a great way to bring awareness or change to causes you care about. Personally, I believe online activism does have its place in the political atmosphere. Just don’t post and go, use the Internet and educate yourself on these topics. Online activism is much more than liking a Tweet or changing a profile picture.
Why We Shouldn’t Discount Online Activism
Calling Online activism, ‘slacktivism’, completely disregards many people who deeply care but who cannot – for personal reasons – participate in in-person activism.
Whether that be a kid from a family with polarizing views, or someone who has health issues, or someone struggling with social anxiety. There are so many people who have personal limitations who care, and shouldn’t be discounted.
As for me, I have severe social anxiety. Currently, I cannot go to any in-person protests or social movements. Even though this is a personal goal of mine to one day be able to participate in in-person activism, I still participate in online activism because it’s something that I care deeply about. This is something that often times gets glanced over. Online activism vs in-person activism is a lot more nuanced than it seems.
Yes, in-person grassroots activism is more beneficial than it’s online counterparts. But let’s not ignore what direction our world is going in. Everything is now digitalized, and it will only continue to do so.
I think both forms of activism have a space in our political sphere. And are even complimentary to each other. But lets not completely discredit one over the other with the success we’ve seen online and the power the Internet really holds.
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