Is Social Media More Than Just Funny Cat Videos?

While many social media websites were created with the intention of connecting to old friends or enabling anyone to share a video with the world, these sites have also become a great way for people to raise awareness and promote action on various forms of social injustices.

With so many people using sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr on a regular basis, activists can easily post a message or video that can be seen by thousands of people. Many times, people, particularly young adults, are unaware of violence or the violation of human rights that occurs throughout the world. Instead of relying on other people to bring up these things in conversation, social media allows people to share messages and news reports right away.

Social media also helps organizations gather information while promoting awareness. Online petitions have become increasingly popular, perhaps because they are usually anonymous, asking only for generic information. With only a few clicks, organizations can get a better view of how many people agree or disagree with them.

However, this idea can be seen both ways. An important criticism of social media campaigning is “clicktivism.” It refers to the idea that because it is so easy to sign a petition or click a yes or no question, the numbers gathered aren’t a true representation of people who would actually commit to the cause. Some can even argue that online activism discourages people to stand out from the crowd and speak about an unpopular opinion.

While Facebook became a popular way for people to reach out by utilizing their “group” feature, Tumblr has found itself at the forefront of political conversations in the past couple years. One of the incidents that started this change came during the 2012 presidential debates. When Mitt Romney was posed a question about gender inequality in the workplace, he misspoke, uttering the now-infamous quote, “binders full of women.” The Tumblr world, along with Facebook and Twitter, exploded, resulting in thousands of posts of that quote. While some were posted as jokes, others showed a depressingly accurate representation of the so-called equality in the workplace.

Whether or not online activism actually changes things outside the cyber universe is still up for debate. Some argue that it gets people talking. Others say that those same people don’t do anything more than just talk. While no one can doubt that awareness of the world’s injustices is important, it can be argued that not enough people take the step beyond and actually do something to help change the situation.