Social action is generally a good idea and what is meant by “social action” can vary by topic, by group doing the “action,” by culture, and by society. Some societies give law abiding citizens a voice for change and, therefore, people are able to voice opposition as long as they comply with certain laws. For other societies, it is not as clear, straightforward, or permitted.
Changes in technology and forms of communication have substantively changed the meaning of “social action” over the decades. This includes increased awareness of local news, state news, national news, and international news. Unfortunately, this also includes an increased amount of people (perhaps with a prevalence of people who were not born before the existence of the Internet) believing they are being socially active and expressing a voice for social change by simply typing on the Internet. This includes people who voice perspectives on social media but refuse to participate in official data collection methods. This also includes people whose voice of protest is via social media but they do not actually attend events — or they attend events when the protest is “trending” but do not grasp years, decades, generations, and centuries of inequalities that warrant ongoing action rather than “trendy action.”
This “trend” has received increased attention with newer social movements that use social media as a central mechanism of communication and outreach. I respect the people who use this method in addition to other methods. My respect is less substantial for people whose social action is minimized to when a movement is trending. I strongly encourage more people to “inconvenience” themselves by logging off the Internet and having more face-to-face interactions with other people and using their off-the-Internet voice. I also encourage more people to challenge their concepts of convenience and social action by participating in research to provide an official voice towards change.
With this in mind, we also need to highlight the complexities of the world. It is difficult to have a “yes” or “no.” Rather, there can be “right” and “wrong” on varying sides of issues. Such diversity in perspectives and approaches is difficult to grasp when people reduce their involvement to social media as opposed to face-to-face meetings and events. Further, outward protests in which people gather (off the Internet) to voice change can also be “trendy”. This can grate the nerves of social activists and organizations that work tirelessly for change, only to often be overlooked for protests and movements that appear relatively newer or more popular. Newer protests and movements can receive greater attention based on demographic characteristics (such as power minority groups whose movements are ignored until members of the power majority announce the importance of the movements), based on media outlets, based on politics, and other factors.
Those of us engaging in community work for smaller audiences as well as larger audiences, and engaging in community work when a topic is being ignored and when a topic is “trending,” wish there was greater consistency. We want people to understand social action and social involvement are lasting and longstanding. Social action and social involvement can be exhausting and tiring. We can put forth complete effort only to be ignored or overlooked. We can receive support from the community, organizations, and some journalists but such support can be “out trended” by more popular stories. Such is life. What is important is for people to understand that our hard work is for a larger purpose and larger meaning. More lasting. This is something for us all to keep in mind.
If social media outlets were to shut down and become nonexistence, some of us would still be active in our communities and would miss very few beats. Of course, we would have to find another way to reach out to people who plan their calendars based on email correspondence and website event listings. I strongly encourage social media-based activists — including younger generations — to prepare a lasting voice that exists long after a topic is trending, long after they graduate from college or graduate school, and long after politicians, journalists, and Internet-based and TV-based stories are no longer interested.
Never let the disinterest of these outlets expire or negate our efforts.
~ Dr. Kimya N. Dennis, Criminologist and Sociologist