Professor Christopher Petty
4 January 2018
Online Activism: An Efficient Source of Protest and Reforms
In the past two decades, online activism on social media platforms has been an essential process for political protests, movements, and social change. This is because, as an active social media user, I believe that with the wide usage of internet and smartphones, people from all around the world are interconnected with each more than ever before. Therefore, in today’s world, online activism is the most efficient way for political activism and social change.
Activists are able to utilize online platforms effectively because of greater scope and lesser time. Sabina Khan-Ibarra states in her article on social media that processes such as the hashtag activism have the power to bring the attention of the global population to a certain incident in one part of the world. Also, as she further states, processes such as this can be conducted in a significantly short period of time. Her claim is supported by the number of tweets sent across the global on a daily basis which was reported to be around 175 million in 2013. At the same time, Khan-Ibarra reports that 500 people access Facebook everyday which basically proves the potential scope for activists on social media platforms. Thus, through utilizing the active population of online platforms, online activists can reach millions of people within a short period of time.
Activists also utilize various online platforms for systematic social change. Athina Karatzogianni reports in her article that alongside protests, there are also forms of online activism that provide alternative views of the society that may not be available otherwise to the general mass. Additionally, she states that there are various non-profit organizations such as Goteo who have been actively utilizing online platforms for their social work. Both of these points are examples of how social media and other online platforms give activists the power to connect with people in need and provide services or information without complying with any political or other kind of bias. In today’s world, therefore, online activists apart from protesting against issues can also work towards social progress or change.
Social media provides a relatively more democratic space for activism. Firstly, as Karatzogianni states, most of the digital platforms are currently used by millions of people worldwide for the awareness of their social work. On the other hand, she also states that social services are provided online to people by the people themselves thereby creating opportunities to build these platforms further as open-source software that are freely available to everyone irrespective of class, race, or gender. This definitely proves that social media is a far more democratic space in terms of usage as compared to traditional media platforms owned by corporates. In addition, as Cabrera et al. suggests, social media has given the students an opportunity to reach the masses with their voice of dissent. To elaborate, social media has empowered student protest from across globe for online activism without complying with the ideologies of any traditional media platform. Therefore, social media plays an important role in online activism by providing a more democratic media platform to people.
Social media also provides a balanced or unbiased source for news. As Khan-Ibarra explains online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter has given independent journalists to report news. This basically means journalism on online platform is far more unbiased and free from any kind of racial, political, or gender bias which definitely makes the news more reliable. Khan-Ibarra also presents the example of an NBC correspondent by the name Ayman Mohyeldin who benefitted in his journalistic venture in Gaza by utilizing the power of hashtag trend on Twitter. Therefore, it is safe to claim that social media platforms are more efficient in surfacing the truth regarding any incident in one part of the world and present it to the rest of the world without any help from the traditional corporate media platforms.
Despite the positive points discussed above, there are potential pitfalls for online activism that cannot be ignored. Rosalie Tostevin reports in her article that not every case is equally uplifting when it comes to using online platforms for activism. For example, she states that during the Darfur campaign, the Facebook page devoted to this cause only could raise $90,000 over a period of three years whereas the offline initiative raised $1 million in 2008 alone. This is because, she explains, despite subscribing to the Facebook page, most members did not donate for the cause. This is an example of what Tostevin calls ‘armchair activism’ where people can get virtually attached to a certain cause without actually helping which in this case was to donate money. Therefore, it is to be noted that even though online platforms provide various opportunities for activists to raise their voice, mobilize people, and work towards progress, yet the respondents always have the chance to disengage themselves at any given moment. As a result, the issue at hand may not find a real solution despite having virtual support on online platforms.
In conclusion, online activism is effective since social media platforms such Facebook and Twitter provides activists with the opportunity to share an issue or an opinion with a larger population in a short period of time. At the same time, activists can also use social media platforms for systematic social progress through connecting with people in need from any part of the world. Also, it is far more effective since social media is a relatively more democratic space as compared to corporate media platforms. Similarly, social media also has the ability to be the platform for unbiased news coverage. However, it is to be remembered that online support is virtual and therefore there is always a chance that a real solution to the issue at hand is not reached despite the online support.
1. Cabrera, Nolan L., Matias, Cheryl E., and Montoya, Roberto. Activism or Slacktivism? The Potential and Pitfalls of Social Media in Contemporary Student Activism. Journal of Diversity in Higher Education. 2017.
2. Karatzogianni, Athina. “How a New Wave of Digital Activists is Changing Society?” phys.org. 12 Apr 2016. https://phys.org/news/2016-04-digital-activists-society.html. Accessed 3 Jan 2018.
3. Khan-Ibarra, Sabina. “The Case for Social Media and Hashtag Activism”. Huffingtonpost.com. 13 Nob 2014. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/sabina-khanibarra/the-case-for-social-media_b_6149974.html. Accessed 3 Jan 2018.
4. Tostevin, Rosalie. “Online Activism: It’s Easy to Click, but Just As Easy to Disengage”. Theguardian.com. 14 Mar 2014. https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2014/mar/14/online-activism-social-media-engage. Accessed 3 Jan 2018.