When Activism is Viewed Through a Straw
The modern web thrives on Likes. Engagement with the social media platform and a creator’s content can often have direct ties to earnings. Where then does the responsibility lie to engage respectfully and intentionally? Let’s examine how innocuous clicks can traverse vast movements.
Tweets are short and most TikToks are around 30 seconds leaving often only the most golden piece of content left. Short content runs innocently thin. It can be left to the user to decide to seek out further context related to this short content if they are interested enough. However, such platforms encourage single-tap engagements such as Likes while trying to keep users on their platforms for as long as possible. A lack of context can result in presented information being misconstrued. It can be like looking through a straw without seeing the bigger picture.
Pretending to not participate in politics is not an option. Many innocent-looking online interactions are often grounded in politics that have already chosen a side. A camera frames its captured subject in space and time which is then further framed by where it is posted and how it is described by the person posting.
The subreddit r/therewasanattempt frames itself around already-finished events around someone’s failure with at least some level of sarcasm. In the following post there are protestors, who’s message is lost without context, who are shown at their point in failure. Regardless of who is right or wrong it can be incredibly tempting to watch people blocking traffic being pulled away and not laugh and respond with a Like. Furthermore, given the context of the subreddit it may be difficult to disagree with the masses as a form of engagement. Conversely, if the same post were in r/fuckcars the favor would surely be in support of pedestrians even without further context to what the protest was about.
Any form of engagement with such a post is one of many facets of social media activism. Cammaerts would call this a practice to attack ideological enemies and preserve protest artefacts. But, social media activism can go deeper when given the right framing, context, and methodologies to engage. A well constructed social media post can raise awareness, do mutual aid, directly organize people in physical spaces and encourage other actions such as calling senators about a proposed bill.