It’s no news that online social media has changed the way society interacts and engages with the world and the people around them, including the way in which we stand up for causes and issues that are important to us.
But does the use of trending hashtags, signing online petitions and sharing them to your Facebook friends ordering them to “please sign” and linking to articles about climate change with lengthy comments actually make you an activist? Is this what activism has become in today’s digital world? Or has there always been more to being an activist than just sitting behind a screen, even with the same intentions to make a change?
The UK (and the world) saw crowds of activists take to the streets over the past few weeks, with thousands of people gathering outside Parliament Square to protest against the government’s decision to extend military action in Syria. Others took part in local campaigns to encourage legally binding action around the world against climate change, in the run up to the Paris Climate Conference that began on Monday and has since concluded with a universal agreement to lower nations greenhouse gas emissions and, ultimately, global warming to 1.5 degrees.
But here’s the thing – I, personally, have never thought of myself as an activist, even though I more often than not tweet trending hashtags relating to a cause, share articles with lengthy comments, and sign and share online petitions. It’s just never occurred to me that by doing this I am what society would call an activist, or that I am in anyway going to change anything. But the truth is, we are the modern day activist. Now more than ever, social media and the online world has the power to be heard in corners of the world that you wouldn’t have even dreamed of 20 years ago. We quite literally have the world at our fingertips.
But does this mean that we shouldn’t still go out and campaign with the hundreds and thousands of others when an issue calls for it? Absolutely not! If anything, the fact that if you do any of these acts anyway through your social media should encourage you to get out there and join the voices that are already marching for change and action. Not only are you being noticed on a more visual scale, but you will be marching for the same cause with so many like-minded people, and experiencing the passion that everyone has for the cause and for the people around them.
On the Saturday 28th, I attended my local Climate March in Bournemouth at noon (while it was pouring it down may I add, so give credit where credit is due) and I did the whole marching and chanting thing; although the latter was somewhat half assed seeing as I was by myself and feeling very insecure about shouting from the top of my lungs “what do we want? Clean energy! When do we want it? Now! But I said to myself that I would. I mean, what is the point of going to a march on climate change if you’re not going to shout at people? Exactly, there isn’t much of one.
Anyway, getting back to it – I’ve always thought of protests and campaigns for the hard-core and insanely confident who aren’t afraid to express their thoughts. I also thought that more often than not, most campaigns/marches were just full of pissed off people that were angry at the system, the government, and the world in general. But I was COMPLETELY put in my place regarding this. Instead, I found a bunch of people that were so full of excitement and joy about the cause that they were marching for that it blew me away. I couldn’t help but join in. There were people from all generations, from the insanely young (who were actually leading the march and chanting the most vigorously), to those with walkers. Bravo. Sure, they were angry at the way things were going in regards to the climate, but the march was instead a cause to show that standing up for something you believe in can be done in a fun environment. So why not try stepping away from the computer screen, grab your face paint and a punny protest sign, and get out there and protest with the best of them.