I have two friends recently that have taken a break from social media. My friend Chris took a break because social media is so overwhelming. He’s watching the country he lives in “descend into fascist theocracy”. I wonder how far Canada is behind this slide into an entirely broken democracy like I see in the US.
Then there is Matt who’s been taking a break and blogging things instead. For him it’s a mindset shift in the stuff he has to say. He feels that social media makes it easy to focus on snark in a short amount of time.
Social Media Posting is Doing Almost Nothing
I think that one of the issues with Social Media is that we confuse making a post decrying some bad thing, like Roe V. Wade being overturned, as doing something about that may actually change that thing we don’t like towards the outcome we’d like to see.
If posting was real activism the world would be a very different place. – Chris Wiegman
But it does almost nothing outside of relieving our feeling of guilt about doing nothing. The actions that change the world are those that have us out on the street with our feet saying something should change.
We’re Mostly Looking for Social Approval Indicators
For most of us, social media is about looking for social approval indicators. Some indication that someone else is thinking about you, with a like button or a heart. The irony here is that we look for these indicators at the same time as we throw them away easily with little effort to others.
I know how little putting a heart on someone Instagram photo means to me. I couldn’t even remember which photos I liked or who they were from. There was little/no real interaction with that person. I threw away a double-tap.
We’re Mostly Avoiding Boredom
Another irony of social media is that we pay thousands of dollars for this device that sits in our pocket. Then we pay monthly for the privilege of using this device1 so that we never have a moment of boredom.
We choose to look for social approval indicators.
We choose that it’s far too hard to put our feet on the ground and a Tweet or Facebook post is all the effort we have for a cause that we “care so deeply about”.
Blogging isn’t the Solution Either
But simply making a format change as Matt did isn’t the answer either. Yes it prompts more thoughtful content. Instead of a quick Tweet I’ve grabbed links and looked at other reading notes I’ve taken on the subjects above.
I mere blog post still isn’t an email to my Member of Parliament or Mayor. It’s not my feet on the ground speaking out against the Canadian Government endorsing racism when they don’t investigate mik’maw fishing buildings being burned to the ground, but do make sure they’re out there regularly stealing lobster traps from those same people after spending decades not codifying the fishing rights of the people as the courts told them to.
Yes, a well-written piece may make a change, but only because it motivates people to take action with other people around them. Because it motivates people to do something about the issue at hand.
Simply taking a break as Chris did isn’t the answer either. It’s easy to say we need breaks (and the pace of information in our lives should slow down greatly) but the women who now have to worry about the legal ramifications of abortion don’t get to take a break from a legal system that hates them. First Nations don’t get to take a break from the racism of an oppressive government.
My question for myself, and I guess for you, is what are you going to do this summer to take action for the outcomes you want to see? It certainly needs to be more than some content on some online medium.