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Home / Tips and Tricks / Social Media and Social Justice: How to Check Out Online Awareness Campaigns Before You Get Started

Social Media and Social Justice: How to Check Out Online Awareness Campaigns Before You Get Started


Chances are you’ve come across a social media campaign with a social concern.

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Whether it’s a black square on #BlackOutTuesday or a black and white selfie for #womensupportingwomen, you’ve likely seen a campaign related to a social issue take over your newsfeed.

But how much good can social media campaigns really do at a time when calls to action are louder than ever? The fact is, not all are created equal, and you should take a break before deciding which ones to support.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of Americans surveyed said they engaged in political or social media in 2018.

Over the past decade, various social-themed campaigns have filled social media feeds. The 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge challenged internet users to immerse themselves in ice water, donate money to ALS research, and enlist friends and family to do the same.

In the tech world, #ILookLikeAnEngineer exposed women in engineering after internet commentators questioned the legitimacy of an engineer based on her looks. The #MeToo movement hit a boiling point in 2017, highlighting the prevalence of sexual harassment, discrimination and violence across industries – women sharing stories and falling some of the most powerful actors in myriad industries. #BlackLivesMatter, founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Treyvon Martin, gained an international following. It has only gotten bigger in the last few months when there were protests around the world.

But as much as social media has been helpful in organizing movements, building support, and even swaying public opinion, there is good reason to pause before jumping on the bandwagon and posting on the latest campaign, du Jour.

“Social media campaigns aren’t necessarily just a fad or lip service. Good things can come out of it,” said Nadia Brown, associate professor of political science at Purdue University.

However, the speed of social media makes them difficult.

In June, Black Lives Matter advocates sounded the alarm that people who tag their #BlackOutTuesday posts with #BlackLivesMatter were inadvertently drowning out important information on the BLM hashtag. Some have scratched their heads about how exactly posting a black and white selfie in support of women works. The hashtag #Challengeccepted had more than 3 million uploads by the end of July.

“Most people are unlikely to get to the bottom of this challenge to really understand the meaning or potential of what can be achieved with it, because the ego always comes first on social media,” said Brian Solis, digital anthropologist and global innovation evangelist at Salesforce.

Which campaigns should you participate in and which should you avoid? It is impossible to offer a single set of guidelines – every campaign is different and exists for a different reason. It is also important to remember, as Brown said, that people around the world are at different stages to wake up to many of the injustices that are burned into our day-to-day systems and institutions. However, there are a few steps you can take before you hit Post.

Find out who is behind the campaign

While the speed and immediacy of the internet may seem to require quick responses, it is worth taking the time to research a campaign before leaving the weight of social media behind.

“It’s who’s behind this that matters,” said Nolan Cabrera, associate professor of educational studies and practices at the University of Arizona. “Which groups are sponsoring? These are critically important questions.”

Check if the campaign is targeting a specific organization and identify their goals and motivations. Is it a non-profit organization? A company? An individual? A body that represents members of an industry?

“Listen to the activists most central to this movement and learn and read what they have said before [taking] an action, “said Rachel Residents, professor of sociology and political science at Purdue University.

Cabrera said it would be helpful to pay attention to those who “[their] Keep your finger on the pulse and could provide a more meaningful reflection on what this is and whether or not it’s worth it. “

Identify the campaign strategy

Depending on the campaign, there may be calls to action: collect money, collect signatures, attend an event or call an elected official.

Before you get on board, find out the campaign strategy.

Often times, a campaign can simply be aimed at raising awareness. While this is not necessarily negative or disqualifying, there are limitations to such a campaign. It can create interest and dynamism, but it doesn’t necessarily lead anywhere.

“It’s really very hard to call it social activism if it’s not directly related to some form of action, some form of disorder, and actually makes groups or rulers react,” said Cabrera.

Still, as Brown pointed out, for those becoming aware of various injustices, the act of solidarity with something that family and friends may disagree with can be a significant step and take a visible stand.

“We have to take into account where people are from,” Brown said.

Check your hashtags

Hashtags are a defining characteristic of social media campaigns. That is what holds all the contributions together.

However, if you’re not careful, you can wipe out the effectiveness of a hashtag, as was the case with #BlackLiveMatter during #BlackOutTuesday. A hashtag that is too vague may contain posts unrelated to the campaign. Or a hashtag previously used or hastily created for something else can create confusion as well.

“The biggest problem is that it can really inadvertently silence the people whose voices should be heard,” said Cabrera.

Translate your support beyond a post or something similar

In the age of social media, critics have questioned how effective a post is – and the idea that posting without further action is simply an ally’s accomplishment.

Carmen Perez, co-chair of the women’s march and executive director of The Gathering for Justice, which aims to end child incarceration, said the post is only a stepping stone for posting on social media.

“I want to make sure that I also provide a vehicle for an action,” said Perez.

Brown asks: “What actions are involved? Does this change your behavior? Write a letter to your congressman, go downstairs in protest? Are you boycotting companies that engage in discriminatory practices?”

So once you’ve reviewed a social media campaign to participate in, keep in mind that there is a lot more to come after that.

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