My friends and I have long joked about how social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have become our go-to “news sources.” It was through social media that we learned about and grieved the loss of black music icons—Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and Heavy D. It was my through my timeline on Facebook, that I gained more information about the details surrounding tragedies like the murder of Trayvon Martin, the search for Relisha Rudd and the recent abduction of over 200 Nigerian school girls. Like it or not, the emergence of online news has revolutionized the way information is disseminated. While most print newspapers and magazines struggle for subscriptions, online media stories are posted and shared countless times over social media platforms.
Social media sharing has now given birth to what I like to call “social media revolutionaries”, — passionate, tech-savvy citizens who are now replacing the armchair revolutionaries that once gathered at my neighborhood Starbucks to debate government policies and social issues within the Black community.
There is no denying the magnitude of power social media campaigns have. This became even more evident recently when First Lady Michelle Obama tweeted her support and prayers for the girls in Chibok, Nigeria on May 7. The same hashtag, #BringBackOurGirls has been posted numerous times on my own social media timelines and throughout the internet on memes, in articles and on tons of blogs I frequently visit. This instance, while tragic to say the least, has shown the power of solidarity and is a demonstration of how those who often feel powerless, can take a chance to become a part of a very powerful movement.
On the flip side, posting updates on social media pages and writing articles doesn’t really tackle the root issue. The issue with the kidnapping of the Nigerian school girls is tied to issues that started long before the April 14 kidnapping. It is unfortunate, but I often notice that “social media revolutionaries” tend to rally most around issues that are “flashy” or “popular.” It is important to bring awareness to the issues we are passionate about, but I believe our social media activity should lead to more changes beyond tweets and hashtag debates. It should spur action that in turn, produces answers and solutions.
Do you think that “social media revolutionaries” are just updated armchair revolutionaries that aren’t as committed to action beyond their comfort zone? Do you think the ease of sharing information about issues in the age of social media is more of a hazard than a benefit?