YspeopleExplore tab


Is social media killing activism?

Thumb mystery man on the phone

About James

I have lived a lot of years and the more years I have lived, the fewer answers i have found. I hope that by engaging here we can discover some answers together.

Does making a comment actually make a difference?

I was surveying the posts on my Facebook feed during the week and stumbled across a post of a segment from the Channel 7 ‘News’. The story was all about the bashing of a young man, a thug. The comments on the story were nothing more than venting and the inarticulate articulation of emotional condemnation and summary judgement.

Are you tired of armchair activists? (Image: Shutterstock).

Are you tired of armchair activists? (Image: Shutterstock)

Many things stood out to me about this post and the responses. Firstly, the people commenting were willing to accept what I like to call ‘infotainment’ published by a commercial television station, almost without question. This is surely a threat to the democratic process.

Secondly, commenters were only too happy to convict and sentence the apparent perpetrator by way of summary judgement, arrived at through emotion rather than thought and reason. This might be a sign that the people commenting may not deserve democracy.

When I suggested that both behaviours were risky, the response from the ‘intellectual giants’ was that they were trying to influence government policy by making their opinions clear on social media. The strategy was apparently predicated on a view that politicians were reading the comments and would act according to their insights.

The idea that politicians would be reading their comments is incredibly absurd. Even if those politicians did read it, thinking they would pay any attention to a Facebook comment and act upon the opinions in the comment, is incredibly naive. Why would any politician pay attention to 6 angry men who were making little sense and may or may not have been expressing a commonly held view? They obviously would not.

The fact is however, this is not what they were doing. They were commenting because they were tribal and emotional. They were commenting because they thought they were founts of wisdom. They were commenting because they were emotional about a dreadful act. They may even have been commenting because they were frightened they might be the victim one day.

They were certainly not protesting. The suggestion that they were trying to influence government policy was a rationalisation of their emotive and largely unthinking behaviour. They may even have been embarrassed about the lack of intellectual rigour they had displayed. If not, they should have been.

That aside the suggestion that they might have been using Facebook as a platform for protest does raise the question as to the extent that social media is now used by arm chair protesters and the extent to which this is diminishing meaningful protest. My guess is that social media has spawned a new breed of protestor who thinks they can change the world from an arm chair.

It is interesting to note that when I offered to go with any one or more of those commenting to go and see the Attorney General and in so doing take meaningful action, not one of these brave protesters even mentioned my offer. So, I repeated my suggestion and received the same response.

It might be argued that protestors have changed many things in this country, including community attitudes to the Vietnam war, the Franklin River development, and most recently community attitudes towards same sex marriage. It can be argued that in recent times social media has been a useful adjunct to protest, as was the case in Egypt and Libya during the Arab Spring. I believe it cannot however be argued, successfully at least, that that arm chair protesting through social media ever changed anything.

So, is social media killing social activism?

No, it is not!

Social activism has always been rare. Few people are able or willing to think things through clearly enough to mount a coherent activist campaign. Further those that are and do, are more often than not too lazy to make it happen. It involves getting out of their armchair.

Social activism has always been the preserve of the few.

Social media comment of the type I am referring to is occasionally positioned by intellectual lightweights as activism, but it is not activism, because they are not in any way shape of form activists. They are unthinking, lazy people, usually men, venting, substantiating the stereotype of the angry old man.

I too had failings in this debate. As my father said, often, in a battle of wits it is folly to fight with an unarmed man. I also picked a fight when there was no need and no potential benefit.

As it turns out, the Channel 7 story seemed to have some credibility and the aggressor pleaded guilty and was sentenced accordingly. He has experienced due process and it would seem that despite all my huffing and puffing, democracy and justice were served.

Banner 1
| Your rating
No ratings yet

Related stories

Separation of powers is about keeping the bastards honest.

Keep politics out of policing and our courts

Our federal politicians have been dancing on dangerous, sacrosanct ground when it comes to policing and our judiciary -- and it...

Social Issues Politics Australia Community
About 18 hours ago
(Ys Comment)
The chances of you falling victim to a violent crime are much lower than you've come to expect.

Are you living in fear of crime? Read on

What's your risk of falling a victim to a violent crime in Australia -- and are rates truly rising? You'll be shocked at the...

Social Issues Australia Community
5 days ago
(Ys Comment)
Be sure that the children in your life are learning the right lessons from you.

What are we teaching our children?

I guess this father never asked himself what lessons he was teaching his son that morning.

Community Social Issues Relationships
6 days ago
(Ys Comment)
Donald Trump has declared himself a genius.

Can you identify a genius?

Just what qualifies as genius? It's certainly not Tiger Woods, Paul McCartney or, shock horror, Donald Trump.

Culture Business Sport Celebrities
7 days ago
(Ys Comment)
learning facts is of limited value (Image: Shutterstock).

The end of education as we know it

Is our current educational system outdated?

Society Education
13 days ago
(Ys Comment)
What are your intentions for the new year? (Image: Shutterstock).

Forget resolutions, create intentions

Do you make New Year's Resolutions? I don't. Read why making 'intentions' are better than resolutions here.

Goals Wellbeing New Year 2018
14 days ago
(Ys Comment)
Amazon is here to stay, so let's embrace it (Image: Shutterstock).

Amazon will improve our lives

Even offline shoppers will benefit. To start with department stores will go broke and gradually be replaced with customer...

Culture Technology Shopping
15 days ago
(Ys Comment)
Forget new years resolutions (Image: Shutterstock).

Why you should forget New Year Resolutions

Are you starting to list all the usual New Year Resolutions? I've stopped making them and read on to find out why.

2018 Goals New Year
15 days ago
(Ys Comment)
Smoking kills innocent children too.

Why do people kill their children?

Why do so many selfish parents insist on slowly killing their children with their bad habits?

Health Social Issues
19 days ago
(Ys Comment)
Why should taxpayers fund educating the elite? Picture: Shutterstock .

We must stop funding non-government schools

There shoud be no government funding of private schools. And here's why!

Australia Politics Community
About 1 month ago
(Ys Comment)
Trending stories
Spend time with your friends!.

10 powerful tips for self-investment

When we prioritise...

(Health & Beauty) 2 days ago
Corporal punishment was all the rage when I was at school.

Do you remember the cane and strap?

It doesn't seem that long...

(Nostalgia) 2 days ago
Aussie country music superstar Keith Urban.

Dang! Here's what's wrong with country music

Millionaire metrosexual...

(Entertainment & Culture) About 15 hours ago
The cat's out of the bag!.

20 truths about a woman's life after 50

The pros, the cons and a...

(Health & Beauty) 8 days ago
The author believes the merger of many charities would be in the best interests of the needy.

Why do charities exist?

Should charities exist for...

(Kindness) 8 months ago
Weekly Poll
Haiku of the week
Memory lane