The advent of online social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook has transformed what social interactions and activism look like on a daily basis.
Good causes or noble efforts are often those that are trending on the world wide web. In an article on social media and activism, Malcolm Gladwell says, “The world, we are told, is in the midst of revolution. The new tools of social media have reinvented social activism”¦ Where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools,” (314). American culture is oversaturated with webpages and Twitter accounts promoting activism, making it all the more difficult for to sift through the static and act on causes worthy of backing.
Social media activism continues to grow as a trend in American culture because when it comes down to it, there is hardly any risk involved for supporters. People click the follow button, they post a video, they give 3 dollars a month to end wars 3000 miles away. But you know, isn’t scary to give up a Starbucks latte to donate to clean water, or dump a bucket of ice water on your head because all your friends did it too. In society today, these are the commitments that earn retweets or garner praise from fellow Facebook friends. While some individuals argue that social media has dramatically increased society’s participation towards different causes, others like Gladwell say participation has increased only because the levels of motivation required to participate are considerably less than those of social movements in pre-internet days. Social media users are able to express their thoughts about issues and show their support through their newsfeed, but these expressions tend to stay where they feel most at home – online.
So we must ask the question. Can a hashtag really change the world? The ability social networks possess to create wide spread awareness of major issues is commendable, but networking via the World Wide Web cannot replace the real world human action needed to change very broken things that surround us. Activism can morph into digital passivism when social media is the only tactic employed. As these trends continue to emerge and be studied in this age of information, much of the results show the same findings. Social media is great at generating awareness, but it is not the medium for sustaining enduring change in the real world.