On Wednesday I participated in a day to “disappear from social media to honor the 27 million people trapped in slavery”. Some of my fellow abolitionist friends did not disappear, as they said that they needed to use every waking minute to proclaim freedom. I can respect that, and actually it was REALLY hard for me to stay off Facebook after HB141 passed through the House, as I wanted to proclaim victory to my platforms. I really wanted to post and tweet all day long. But, I made a commitment, so I stuck with it. There were probably a few people out there in Facebook/Twitter land who were happy to see me disappear for a day, as I’m sure my incessant posts can get overbearing at times.
Anyway, it was hard to be silent. For some of you who don’t facebook, tweet and blog frequently, being silent on social media wouldn’t be as big of a deal to you. But I use social media a lot. I’m on it several times a day, browsing, reading articles, and posting thoughts, opinions and ‘calls to action’. I’m using blogging with my students this semester to expose them to the idea of using social media to promote change. I like to think I’m a bit evolved in my social media, as I try to use it for good as much as possible. (Which means in addition to posting a ridiculous amount of pictures of my dog sleeping, I also post about world events and social justice). But ultimately it has become a huge part of my life, and in the lives of most of my friends and family. My dad and grandmother refuse to join the bandwagon, but pretty much everyone else I know has some sort of social media profile. It has permeated our culture. So, as I took a 24 hour break from social media, I had a few main takeaways and thoughts related to my time of being ‘silent’
Social Media has become our voice: Gone are the days where you actually had to update your friends face to face or via the phone. Now, you just check their facebook status or twitter feed. I’ve learned personal things about people I haven’t talked to in years just by checking their page. I’m wondering what my impending 10 year high school reunion is going to be like, as we are currently planning it through Facebook and are aware of where classmates are because of Facebook. Should be interesting…. And, I’ve learned that there are some people who I can tolerate in person and even respect, but their proverbial social media vomit leaves a bad taste in my mouth. In a way, our “voices” have become more harsh, cruel, and judgemental. And in other ways, our “voices” have become louder- in a good way as we harness the power of social media to create change, promote equality, and encourage others.
Some people don’t have a voice – I’m admittedly a bit dramatic in my ‘deep thinking’, but during my minimal time without my social media voice, I kept thinking about the people in our world who don’t have voices. Or, maybe they have been forcefully silenced. Those enslaved, children, the oppressed and persecuted- and to some extent, people who are homeless, impoverished, disabled. What does it feel like to live your life feeling invisible, forgotten and ignored? I don’t know, but not being able to express my thoughts to the 1,500+ people I’m connected to for a WHOLE day was hard. I couldn’t imagine the depression and desperation one feels when they are silenced and abused.
We have a platform: As I fervently tweeted and facebooked right before I signed off Tuesday night, I was reminded of this amazing platform. Social media has given us the world at our fingertips. You can resist the change and hate the platform, but it’s here, and it’s here to stay. It will probably only get more intense as we progress along. Social media has given us a platform to use for either good or bad. Our words can be incredibly painful and harsh. We can hide behind a computer screen and spew all kinds of nastiness to our fellow man. Or, we can encourage, empower and advocate with this platform. I try to do the latter.
I waste a lot of time: Nothing deep about this takeaway, it’s just a fact. I definitely could reduce some of that mindless, voyeuristic scrolling through newsfeeds and harbor it in more productive ways.
Ultimately, we all have opportunities to speak. We speak through our actions and words on social media. We have the opportunity to speak out for those silenced, and to empower others to speak. I’m going to do my best to speak up for the voiceless, and speak up for things that are good- in social media and in ‘real life’. Join me? Collective voices will change the world.