Social media activism is rather complicated to me. While individuals can show support for various causes by changing filters on display pictures, posting, or using hashtags to promote worthwhile causes, it is hard to determine the influence that these actions will have on the cause.
I personally view these as token gestures and have tried to limit my use of such filters or practices unless I know that my actions and behaviours are truly supporting the cause. To me, it is not enough to just change a filter on a display picture to show that you are an ally or a supporter of a cause. While these simple actions may bring about awareness to an issue or cause, more is needed to truly bring about positive change. Peter Suciu’s Is Posting on Social Media a Valid Form of Activism? Article notes- “Of course in the end, getting the message out there is just one part of it. Social media can call the world to action, but the issue is whether anyone listens.” I often think that it is important to post or retweet something on social media that shows tangible actions of supporting a cause. For example, my wife and I always support #BurgersToBeatMShttps://web.aw.ca/en/our-values/our-community/burgerstobeatms
I would argue that while many are able to use social media to help spread a message to their followers, the idea of tangible actions coming because of such posts would be fewer. Suciu’ also argues that “Social media is just the latest platform to spread a message and call for social action. In some ways it has become the new soap box for those to stand on – but without the effort of actually climbing on a box!” Thus, I feel that while social medi provides the platform to stand on we still need to show more actions of effort to show that we are truly doing something beyond just simply retweeting or sharing an image.
In Katia Hildebrandt’s In online spaces, silence speaks as loudly as words she argues, “We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to social inequities and injustices. We have a responsibility to risk our privilege to give voice to those who have no privilege to risk.” I agree with taking a stance against social inequities and injustices, and I am slowly pushing myself to use our school’s social media platform and my own accounts to take a stance and give voice to important issues. On my personal accounts, I often find myself celebrating folks who have taken a stance or a leadership role in a cause. For example, my school has made a commitment beyond days like Sept. 30th to truly engage with Indigenous Elders and knowledge keepers to learn about land-based learning and Indigenous teachings. Last week, I made the following post on my personal account and was responsible for our school’s post.
Is it possible to have productive conversations about social justice online?
Yes, it is possible to have productive conversations about social justice online, but one has to be ready for the stream of comments that could be rude or disrespectful. I often find that on most social media platforms, one can clearly see who the educated and articulate folks are. It really comes down to being a good and civil person with our conversations.
To have productive conversations about social justice online, we need to teach social emotional skills and how to regulate these emotions through our writing and online interactions. Moreover, we need to model conflict resolution skills. I would say that while we want to focus on understanding diverse perspectives, we must show ways to approach differences with being civil and politie, rather than with crude or hurtful comments.
What is our responsibility as educators to model active citizenship online?
I agree with Katia Hildebrandt’s What Kind of (Digital) Citizen? that we need to be “moving from a fear- and avoidance-based model to one that emphasizes the actions that a responsible digital citizen should take.” However, online citizenship cannot be done in isolation and must be a topic of concern across multiple curriculums. This must be a major focus of all teachers’ work, or we risk teaching using the fear and avoidance-based model as our fall back. I believe this especially true as we progress in a post pandemic education world. This work cannot be left to a few teachers, it must be the collective work of many if we truly want to support the development of online citizenship.
How could schools work collaboratively to develop online citizenship?
What does active citizenship in an online world truly look like? What is the target that we are trying to achieve?