Monday, October 13


This is sort of a special installment in the "Meredith Talks About Social Media" series.

Those of you who know me personally know that my interaction with other members of humankind is a constant struggle between sassymouth Meredith and sensible, kind Meredith. This is a struggle magnified in person because those interactions happen in real time. It's important to me that I maintain a good Christian testimony and that I am gracious to others. Consequently, I generally avoid voicing my opinions in person because I have a very good chance of slipping from intelligent debate into senseless and immature argumentation.

Since I am somewhat lacking in the controlling-myself-verbally-around-others department, I choose to voice my opinions here.

(And that's where I'm probably going to lose most of you...)

If you're reading this, there's a good chance that you're a person.

If you're a person, then there's a good chance that you're a social media user.

And if you're a social media user, then there's a good chance that somewhere along the way in your wonderful social media journey, you've fallen prey to something like this:

"Thousands of YOUR skin cells are dying every day. Little did you know that every time you scratch your arm, you KILL poor, helpless skin cells. STOP SCRATCHING AND SAVE YOUR SKIN. #SaveOurSkin #StopScratching #WorthItToItch #Hashtag #Selfie #Awareness"

Yes, this is an exaggeratedly shallow hypothetical awareness post. I didn't want to step on any toes.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out there's a toe-stepping awareness kick going on somewhere and I would hate to step on their toes because they might hashtag me to death.

I digress...

If you have seen something like my ludicrous skin cell salvation example, then you have experienced the most recently developed ways to support a cause: social media activism.

I am an almost-embarrassingly regular user of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In my experience with these sites, I have observed a lot of shallowness, narcissism, and - the good homeschooler in me cringes to say the "S" word - downright stupidity.

Generally, I don't mind that much, because hey - people are just dumb sometimes. But in the case of social media "activism," I find myself more and more irritated with every new awareness trend.

I feel like now would be an excellent time to clarify something: I acknowledge that social media can be a very effective way to raise awareness for legitimate, serious issues, and I have no problem with that.

Here are the problems I do have with social media activism when it is abused or misused.

Raising awareness is excellent. However, the vast majority of social media activists seem to be okay with just raising awareness. The point of raising awareness for a cause is to help get support for the cause. Don't commit to just awareness - awareness without support is useless.

"Oh yeah, I saw someone's post about that" is much different from "Oh yeah, that person got physically involved with that/donated money/did whatever it is people do when they support a cause." One of those two courses of action is going to show that you're legitimately committed and that you really think it's worth people's time. I'll give you three guesses, and the first two don't count.

Right. The people who get involved are going to leave more of an impact.

Social media is a very powerful way to communicate with others and get a message out. It is becoming increasingly more common that social media activism trends go viral. A good principle to keep in mind when entering the world of social media activism is that with great power comes great responsibility. (And NO I am not quoting Spider-Man's Uncle Ben - it's Voltaire, dearie.) Make sure you know what you're plugging. Think about the possible outcomes (and consequences). If you passionately (and publicly) support an "awesome" cause that later turns out to have been not so great, it will reflect badly on you and you are going to look very foolish.

Honestly, we could avoid a lot of problems if people would just think about things a little more.

My biggest issue with social media activism is the fact that because many of its participants are uninformed and not really dedicated to the cause that they so vehemently defend on social media, were you to bring it up in a real conversation, it is unlikely the person would be a very convincing activist. Your social media "life" should not be a completely separate entity from your real life. The two are intertwined, like a cool twisty pretzel.

While this concept applies to every aspect of social media use, it should be especially true in something that you are supposedly defending and trying to raise awareness for.

Guys. Keep it real. We as individuals are very small and we like to feel...well, not small. Being a part of something bigger is fulfilling and makes us feel powerful. But don't be fooled.

When you see this:

My knee-jerk reaction would be to recommend #DONOTPARTICIPATE (probably because I think like a grumpy old person)

However, you are probably a better person than I am.

So if you just can't resist, proceed with caution. Don't support something on social media that you don't really care about any time other than the five minutes it takes to do an Instagram post. And if you honestly care about something, do your research and find out how you can really get involved. 

Challenge yourself to do more than hashtag your way to feeling like you've helped.


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