In June 2012, a debate was held at the historic Oxford Union on the topic on whether “social media has successfully reinvented social activism.” An article was then written by Mark Kersten, one of the debaters who argued that social media has not successfully reinvented social activism.
The article begins by saying:
The relationship between social media and social activism has become a critically important subject in the wake of the so-called “twitter revolutions” in Iran and Moldova, the use of blogs, Facebook and Twitter in the Arab Spring as well as Invisible Children’s KONY2012 viral campaign. Nevertheless, we are only just beginning to understand how social media in fact produces real-life results in the context of conflict, revolutions, and social upheaval.
The zealous liberal arts college student, hyped up on coffee and noble passion, who posts about ending sex slavery is something of a stereotype now. And while such students may consider themselves “social activists,” their critics snidely refer to them as “slacktivists” who have a false sense of accomplishment despite the fact that they’re not really doing anything. While it is true that raising awareness regarding issues like human trafficking is important and helpful, it is also true that simply “liking” a post or tweeting an article is not enough. The real “social activists” are the people on the frontlines, diligently working day in and day out to change policies, free slaves, and change dysfunctional cultures from the inside out.
As parents, it is important to recognize that while not all kids will grow up to be social activists, everyone has a part to play in helping others who are less fortunate than ourselves. We all can volunteer our time and talents, give as we are financially able to in order to fund the social work of others, and use our voice on social media to advocate on behalf of others.
Consider volunteering as a family at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. See if you can get involved in a local campaign for a candidate that you believe in. Run in a cause-based marathon or participate in a funds-generating bike race. Opportunities for volunteering are plentiful; a simple Google search can find opportunities in your area.
When it comes to giving, the important thing to stress is that you let your kids know that you are giving so you can discuss why you are giving and why you are giving to a particular charity, ministry, etc. These conversations will help your kids understand the importance of funding the good work that others are doing. We’re not all called to work on the frontlines fighting to end slavery but by giving to organizations like International Justice Mission and Polaris Project, we are indirectly helping to change the world.
Advocating on behalf of people, whether individuals such as Pastor Saeed who is imprisoned in Iran, or groups of people like the “untouchables” in India, is a way of giving a voice to those who may not otherwise have a voice and it is a way of amplifying cries for help and cries for justice. Social media is a powerful tool for enabling us to be advocates. Platforms like blogs, websites, podcasts, etc. can also help you advocate on behalf of others. Consider how abolitionists worked in the United States and also in Britain to fight slavery; much of their work as activists was simply speaking up and speaking out. The same is true of today; by using our voice, we can stand up against injustice.
Many of our children will grow up to have a zeal and passion for social justice but it is crucial that we help them avoid the trap of slacktivism while helping them brainstorm practical ways that they can help the people around them. Remember, it starts by us modeling actions for our children; if we volunteer, give, and advocate, our children can learn to as well.
Part three of a four part series on social justice.