How to use your platform for activism

Jina Marwood Jina Marwood
August 5, 2020

Corey Young

What is social media activism?

Social networking sites have quickly developed into an influential space for debate, discussion, advocacy, and activism. 

In 2017, the Me Too movement emerged worldwide, to fight against sexual abuse and harassment, and victims publicized their personal experiences with sex crimes. In 2018, March For Our Lives, a student-led organization rose up to end gun violence in America. And in 2020,  the Black Lives Matter movement took over the internet, where millions of users protested and spoke out against instances of police brutality and the racially-motivated, inhumane actions against the Black community. 

In short, activism on social media plays a large role in mobilizing movements; often used interchangeably with hashtag activism. A simple hashtag can spread like wildfire through popular platforms and networking sites that young activists are actively scrolling through. 

It’s important to remember that being genuine in your activism means continuously learning, educating yourself, and opening a dialogue between those advocating for a cause or fighting against injustice. Take a moment to do your homework and to listen to those who are speaking, so you can properly discern before taking action or holding space for others to do so. 

Ensure your resources are inclusive, intersectional, and accessible

Making your activism inclusive & intersectional means that you recognize that everyone experiences different levels of discrimination, based on social categorizations such as (but not limited to) age, race, sex, class, gender, and sexual orientation. Sharing and providing insight without an intersectional lens can end up being harmful; perpetuating ongoing systems of oppression and inequalities. 

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Moreover, ensure that you include resources that are accessible. Not everyone has the funds to purchase a book, subscribe to online resources, or attend a class — no matter how affordable you might think it is. There are plenty of free resources available online that are accessible to everyone. 

Avoid virtue signalling

Using social media to communicate effectively on an issue by sharing information, raising awareness or encouraging others to do further research is one matter; using a platform to virtue signal is another. A virtue-signaller might look like a person or brand that doesn’t necessarily believe what they’re saying (or doesn’t follow their thoughts with actionable items) but wants to appear as though they have a strong moral compass. 

We’ve all seen various platforms go silent after posting a black square on Instagram or briefly stopping by at an afternoon march or protest. It can come off as disingenuous when a brand, business, or individual posts about a viral subject matter, when they had been previously silent or non-inclusive prior. 

Be honest and reflectively aware of your own implicit biases. And if you have the ability to use your platform to advance a cause, it’s important to take your activism to the next level and try to make a difference through an actionable response. 

Go beyond the hashtag

Genuine social media activism is supported by concrete actions and measurable commitments to evolve. The real work begins when you turn off your phone. Sign petitions, donate or support a local organization, exercise your right to vote, and don’t let important discourses lose their momentum. What you truly believe and the actions you take beyond a screen will have a positive, longer-lasting impact. 

Social media activism has stood behind and amplified the voices of marginalized groups by urging institutions to amend their policies and demanding their political parties to take legislative action. That type of momentum has great effect when it comes to repairing injustices that are maintained through unequal power structures and biased systems of society, so it’s crucial to keep those discussions going — both online and off. 

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