Social media should not replace physical protest
Reflecting on the results of the 2016 election has caused many people to type up their thoughts and post a status, tweet or Instagram post on social media. But sites like this have been criticized for creating filter bubbles and echo chambers. People only see the posts of those who agree with them and can easily block or unfriend those with whom they disagree. They’ve created their own unique universe of information. But what’s being edited out? What are you not seeing?
While I could advise you to hold off on unfriending all your Trump-supporting friends, it would be hypocritical since I myself have been heavy on the “unfollow” button on Facebook. But unfriending on social media doesn’t make those people go away or give them any reason to change, and more importantly, social media should not be used as a crutch to make change in the nation post-election.
With social media sites we are supposedly more connected and able to voice our opinions than ever. Upon entering a website, you are given the viewpoints of people near and far to help shape your understanding of current events. The assumption is that media grants quality information that is always better than that of an individual. Yet, are we really doing much for the current political situation through posting a status on our reflections which will only be read by those who are like-minded to us? We may receive 100 likes on a tweet or post, resulting in high interactivity with our followers, but what about engagement?
According to scholar Darin Barney’s article “Politics and Emerging Media: The Revenge of Publicity,” information, communication and participation stand in for motivation, judgement and action. The ability to voice an opinion stands in for more demanding forms of engagement. I believe that posting on social media generates conversation, but conversation through a screen does little to actually incite change in the population.
Social media acts as a kind of stand-in, a tool that makes us feel we’ve had a say, that we’ve participated, when really, we’ve done no such thing. Instead we need to talk to people face-to-face because we have a lot of healing to do and we have to come together on it.
Citizenship in the digital age is more than just about improving information, communication and participation. Most of those participating on social media platforms are aware of the current political situation and do not need a debriefing on the stances the president-elect takes on issues such as immigration, sexual preferences and the lives of minorities.
According to Cyrus Farivar’s novel “The Internet of Elsewhere,” “when the Internet arrives in all countries, it does so at a particular moment in history and evolves in a way that is irrevocably stamped with those countries’ modern histories and economic environments.”
The internet of today is filled with memes and videos of cooking tutorials, leading to many people asking “When is Facebook going to stop being politically charged and go back to photos of cute dogs?” I argue differently and think Facebook, along with other social media sites, should continue its transformation into a more open place of discussion and action. But I place emphasis on action, since users need to begin to take their anger and disappointment in election results and catapult that into peaceful protests, community discussions and government involvement.
I know it can seem upsetting that the days of game day pictures and tagging friends in silly pictures are behind us, but perhaps we are moving to a better place in interactions with social media. While Tumblr users complain they were born in the wrong generation and evoke images of Vietnam protests and the March on Washington, we are now situated in our own generation of active involvement.
To the students of UW-Madison and our generation, I urge you to use social media for purposes beyond mere publicity. It’s OK to create events on Facebook for protests and join supportive groups. It’s even OK if you create an Instagram message solely for the purpose of sharing memes of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. But don’t be afraid to take it outside the realm of the internet and use your voice in the outernet.
So stand up, fellow millennials, and step away from your computer. Your complaints have been heard through words typed in Lucida Grande 12-point font illuminated on a dimly lit computer screen. Now is the time to make your words heard through signs and shouts in the real world.
Lilly is a junior majoring in journalism and communication arts. Do you think social media is an effective place to share protests? Please send all comment, questions and concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter