When the very same people who chose to stay quiet during Sushant Singh Rajput’s
unfortunate death become overnight ambassadors of mental health after a series of tweets
from Kanye West, that’s when we know we’re missing something.
When endorsers of fairness creams and companies with a history of racial discrimination
become a part of ‘woke-culture’ and get away with a mere black square and a hashtag, that’s when we know that introspection is long overdue.
Social media has revolutionised modern-day protests and movements. By including
numerous people that were earlier unable to support and take part in campaigns, it has proven to have the powerful ability to spark conversation, create awareness, and mobilise
movements. By opening up a space for anyone and everyone to express their opinions and thoughts, this platform has managed to break barriers of distance, time and accessibility. Especially in our current situation, online activism has become essential in organising people and resources, and has created a space for anyone to speak out about anything.
However, our recent use of this platform for mere performative gestures and selective
solidarity has diluted its vast abilities. Instead of educating ourselves about the problems we see on social media, a majority of us are limited to re-sharing the stories and posts to be a part of the herd, completely defeating the meaning of the whole process. By restricting our activism to just the surface-level, we are reducing pressing issues and movements to mere social media trends that are forgotten before they truly even realise.
The Harvard Crimson wrote, “Tweeting about how I just bought a PRIDE t-shirt and “ended homophobia” inside Target only takes a few seconds. That, my friends, is woke culture in 2018: a performance in two parts — posting about social issues online and expectantly waiting for the affirmation to pour in.”
As our posts and forwards seem to define us these days, we tend to convince ourselves of the same, and thus, the problem arises. The little gestures we resort to gives us a certain
satisfaction of having “made a difference,” even though some of us live out the very lives we admonish on social media. This contentment (or self-righteousness, if I may) leads to the end of any further action, keeping our gestures at the surface.
Along with standing up against police brutality, racism, and innumerable problems outside our country, let us make sure that we take a moment to look at the same that happens around us and raise our voices against those issues too.
While changing a profile picture and putting up stories and posts are great methods to create awareness, let us not stop at that.
Educate yourself and others- Identify credible sources and educate yourself on the issues.
Their historical progression can give you better insight and help you form your own unbiased opinion.
Engage in conversation- Change comes faster when we work together. Along with the
various social media methods, inform others and encourage them to take a stand on the issues and lead by example. Indulge in fruitful conversations that are outside your social media platforms. Face-to-face conversations can lead to more effective and friendly debates, imparting fresh insights to all parties.
Sign petitions and voice your opinion- If a signature campaign or any easily accessible
medium exists for the movement, take a minute to click a few buttons. Even though its
success is hard to define, it is still a tool to mobilise the public and gain the attention of
officials. A great example of a petition that resulted in victory is the ‘Green the Mumbai
Marathon’ petition that gained momentum on change.org. Over 1 lakh supporters succeeded in pushing the organisers to significantly reduce plastic waste at the annual Mumbai Marathon with a simple, yet effective act!
Attend protests and volunteer- Marches and protests are another effective way to call
attention to movements and demand action and conversation. Following the government’s sanction to expand a railway line through protected areas to increase the coal-carrying capacity of Goa’s Mormugao Port, around 3,000 Goans bearing torches, lanterns and candles stepped out to sing, dance, beat drums and raise slogans against the move. The support and attention garnered by this have left the Ministry drowned in requests from activists, researchers, students, small business owners and every other stakeholder. This form of activism may not be accessible to all, but wherever possible, let us engage in it.
Donate- If you are in a position to do so, support movements and local organisations after
doing your homework on them.
“Educate, Agitate, Organise!”
These are some of the simple things that we can engage in to truly support a movement. Not all of us may be in a position to carry out each of these actions, but to the possible extent, let us move past performative gestures.
Introspect and delve deeper; beyond the surface.