This week, we discussed social activism online and whether or not it can be effective. Is it worthwhile? I think it is possible for it to be worthwhile and meaningful if the people that are advocating for the cause are invested beyond just social media. We discussed in class the idea of slackivism. Wikipedia explains this to be the concept that people believe that are contributing to a cause by simply re-tweeting, sharing or liking a page. However, sharing or liking something on Facebook, although a great way to create more acknowledgement towards a specific issue, does not solve the issue. It is a way to share information and give people who actually WANT to create change, a medium to do so.
One excellent example I found was Wael Ghonim: a social activist who used social media to help create the revolution in Egypt in 2011. Essentially the movement began with the death of Khaled Said, and a picture that was posted and shared relentlessly on social media. This sparked interest and Ghonim created a Facebook page to support this outrage. He gathered hundreds of thousands of followers; then realized, it wasn’t enough to just gather online. They needed to do something. He asked his users an important question: “Today is the 14th of January. The 25th of January is Police Day. It’s a national holiday. If 100,000 of us take to the streets of Cairo, no one is going to stop us. I wonder if we could do it.” (TED, 2015) And they did it. The video goes on to explain the aftermath and the revolution we know today. I think it is awe-inspiring that something so life-changing began on social media and with one picture.
As educators, I think we do have a responsibility to model active citizenship online, but it can be difficult. As teachers, we are on the radar all the time. Anything we say online can be traced, twisted, or interpreted the wrong way and it can affect us, personally and professionally. The challenge then becomes to advocate professionally and ask ourselves questions before interacting online:
- “How will this be viewed by people who do not know me?”
- “How will this be viewed by people that do know me?”
- “Would I be okay if my students saw this?”
- “Would I be okay if my colleagues/family saw this?”
Although, it is unfortunate we cannot be as uncensored as other people can be online, are these not questions we consider before speaking out loud? Why should what we discuss online be different than what we talk about in our classrooms or in our day-to-day lives? And shouldn’t all people really abide by these “unwritten rules”? We are taught from a young age to be kind, to listen to other’s opinions, to think before we speak, so why is it that as soon as we are hidden behind a screen and a keyboard that we forget these guidelines apply and become trolls, argumentative or outright rude? I think the most important thing is that we model our personal beliefs and values and model the
ideologies that we would be okay with our students, our friends, and our families seeing and modeling too! After all, that is our job and yes, sometimes it is hard to remain in this mindset in the heat of the moment, but these rules apply to the real world, why shouldn’t they apply to the online one too?