Outrage or Activism: Digital Tools for Change
The internet has provided the world with unprecedented access to information, which exposes us to both the good and bad in our society and forces us to think about ways to work towards improvements. It also has the ability to capture and highlight especially egregious (and potentially magnificent) events and conditions around the world that spread across the digital space like wildfire. It creates a new level of demand for justice, as we are exposed to an increased supply of injustice in the digital space. The inevitable result of this dynamic is a rise in digital activism. To me, digital activism is the use of internet spaces like social media sites, blogs, podcasts, etc. with the intention of promoting or advocating for specific policies and beliefs or to simply raise awareness on certain issues. Digital activism is just an extension of activism more generally, but within the internet. The connection between activism and leadership is there, as it is a bold and noble move any time you are fighting for something you believe in and it allows you to attract a following, educate others, and lead by example.
A lot of times, I think many people do mistake outrage for activism online. The amplification of public shaming, false narratives, and character assassination online is a troubling development of online behavior. Importantly, the implications of digital activism are not only felt online. They can have drastic effects in real life as well. My example of digital activism comes from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey described as “mastering the medium [of twitter]”. She uses her account in creative and humorous ways that resonate with younger people and bring her ideas and beliefs to the fore. In many ways, her presence on social media was the springboard that moved her from a bartender to member of congress. It goes back to the link between activism and leadership online, because she is advocating for beliefs that are being held and adopted by those who follow her, and is picking up more followers along the way.
While making jokes and discussing policy online doesn’t change laws, it does change minds and hearts. It this way, digital activism does have impacts in the real world, because it has the potential to have a massive impact on public opinion and as a result voting behavior. This doesn’t mean that fame is a precursor to making change using the internet. There are many ways to influence the world in the ways you can. Signing and sharing a “We The People” petition, that the White House responds to if it gets 100,000 signatures in 30 days, is one way. You can also share articles and news reports that you believe people should know about. You can send information to friends, families, and even strangers about any topic you can think of: voting, racism, inequality, religion, animal cruelty, environment, the local mayor. Anything can be found and talked about online, which makes it hard to follow everything that you want to. Theres a real bandwidth problem when it comes to digital advocacy, but the digital forum itself is key to moving each of the never ending list of societal concerns to the center of attention, one at a time.