Social media broadcasts the best of us, the worst of us, and everything in between. Here are a few ways that it can be a wonderful tool for social justice. What would you add? Contest?
Breaking Through the Filter
One of the ways that oppression works is through social institutions, like the mainstream media. Social media allows us to bypass the filter and dominant narrative of the mainstream media. The night of announcement not to indict Darren Wilson in Ferguson, I was able to simultaneously watch and listen to what CNN was broadcasting as well as follow on Twitter. There was a stark difference in the voices, narrative, perspective, and facts that were being shared via my Twitter feed and the CNN broadcast. There was a time when CNN would have been my best option for watching live news events like this. It was amazing for me to experience pictures, news, and analysis from activists and journalists in Ferguson in real time. It was also great to be exposed to analysis from a breadth of voices from across the country that were not represented on CNN, particularly Black voices.
Listening and Learning Without Placing the Burden on the Oppressed
Another way oppression works is by placing the burden for the learning of the dominant group on the oppressed group. Men wanting to learn from women about how sexism works is great, but placing the burden of that learning on women reinforces oppression. Social media allows members of the dominant group to listen, follow, and learn from those who are choosing to share. For me, it has been meaningful to learn from the voices of survivors of sexual assault as they share their experiences, responses to legislation, news of sexual assault on campus, and media coverage of these events. By listening on social media I can learn from those who share when and how they want to share and not when or how I want them to.
We are drawn to simple explanations. However, Chimamanda Adichie reminds us of the danger of a single story. Individuals, communities, and social movements are not monolithic. Folks with shared experiences with oppression have different experiences, perspectives, goals, and strategies. It’s wonderful to see things that resonate with me on social media, then read criticism of this same perspective, and then read the criticism of the criticism. Social media offers complex and conflicting narratives, which broadens and strengthens real understanding and pushes social movements to ever better solutions.
Social media allows new, marginalized, and unsupported voices to get their perspectives and ideas out. Over the past year, individuals with powerful ideas or perspectives have been launched by social media to large audiences. This has even allowed them to leverage their voices into being included in the mainstream media. Following, liking, sharing, re-tweeting, re-blogging, and other means of social media amplification are great ways to support social justice voices and ideas worth sharing.
How has social media been helpful to you in your learning and social justice advocacy?