Facebook Activism in Place of Real Activity

fbactivist_500Right now, everyone is waiting until the socially acceptable time to un-rainbow their profile pictures, aren’t they?

If you missed it, the rainbows were in support for the U.S. Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) ruling that requires the recognition of gay marriage throughout the United States.

It’s a celebration of gay rights, another move towards equality… and so many people are celebrating as though they had been a part of the fight all along and not just passive spectators. They treat their facebook profile photos like a Football team jersey, supporting and cheering, but not actively playing on the field.

If they had been paying attention, they might have noticed that ISIS, the ragingly homophobic Islamic State, was also celebrating the SCOTUS decision… by throwing several homosexual men off the top of buildings to their deaths in front of a cheering crowd.

It kind of sullies the facebook profile picture victories, but it was so buried by the joyous headline that most people never even heard about it.

Do people really believe that their profile picture affect change? Or is it a way to show action without actually doing anything but clicking a button? There was an app to rainbow-up your profile photo. Would it have been as prevalent if people had to do the dozens of clicks it would have taken to photoshop it themselves? Does anyone – lawmakers, politicians, world leaders – truly judge public support based on facebook photos? Would it be a good idea if social media made these big decisions for us?

James Foley was a freelance journalist who was beheaded at the hands of ISIS. The death of Foley raised numerous questions such as the ethics of the media’s outsourcing of war coverage to freelancers to whom they offer little support, minimal pay and no protection. It highlighted the first truly viral bit of sadism at the hands of the terrorist organization. Many people changed their profile photo to a big black box in order to show solidarity against the decapitated victims of ISIS.

Yet Foley still died, freelancers are still abused and Daesh is still a scourge going through the Middle East.

Facebook activism. It accomplishes nothing, doesn’t solve any problems, but it makes people feel ‘involved’ in the fight – even if they’re not. Sending “Good vibes” and prayers is not the equivalent of action.

Social media activism certainly has its place – ISIS has increasingly used social media in order to recruit fighters into their ranks, and to garner support. They are masters are spurring people into action. The western world, who dominate social media, is far less capable of such a feat.

There’s a thirst for volunteers, for fighters, for true workers – there are plenty of talkers, not enough movers. There are plenty of people who point at the television screen and say, “Someone should do something about that!”

That amorphic “someone”, which is code for “someone-other-than-me”.

It’s possible that facebook activism has actually destroyed real activism, and it might end to the destruction of our society. In its wake is left a trail of outrage that serves no real purpose but to show that you have conviction… but not enough to do anything about it.

We have created a culture of blow-hards, and live in a perpetual state of faux-outrage – at ANYTHING! Justin Bieber was arrested. OUTRAGE! Deport him back to Canada! Miley Cyrus was twerking. Outrage! Boycots! Blah-blah-blah…

If I had to make a guess, the western world will not fall apart in a great nuclear apocalypse or a great cry of defiance, but will probably go with a disinterested sigh followed by cat memes.

Izjyvyndeed, the rainbow photos completely thrilled pro-gay activists so much, that the news of a simultaneous, multinational attack that might have been the work of ISIS was drowned out. While I thoroughly believe in the justness of the decision to allow same-sex marriages across the whole United States, I think that the right to the personal life you have is less important than people’s right to live at all.

Maybe the United States needed to celebrate. Maybe we needed something to be happy about, since the news has been grim with racism and murders that originate from inside our own culture, as well as the external one that wants to genocide all non-muslims (or even Muslims who aren’t the “right” kind of Muslim).

Everyone thinks that these are threats to our society, but most people take their outrage onto facebook then do little else. Even protests have thinned out to a pitiful, but dedicated, few. If we could gauge the outrage on facebook, you’d think that there’d be more people protesting with their dollars, their time, or their cardboard signs. But no. Certainly in no fashion that would lead to change.

Next week, there’ll be another distraction. Maybe Donald Trump will do something stupid again, and we can laugh, and chat about it because it’s a light-hearted schadenfreude that generally unifies, validates our superiority over that rich, but ridiculous, man. A cartoon of Bristol Palin giving birth to a bald eagle might go viral, or Mama Bear Palin will say something about how much of a victim she is and we’ll all laugh and we’ll all take our eyes off the things that had outraged us this week.

Next weeks, the same problems will exist. But we would have been anesthetized by kitten videos, a puppy that’s become best friends with a panda bear, or the latest celebrity “war” (because real wars aren’t entertaining) and nothing will have changed…

Except for our profile pictures. Because we care.

About The Author
Kat Argo
Kat Argo is an indie writer and filmmaker covering the war in Ukraine; A former military analyst and Afghanistan veteran living out of a backpack and sends articles and video dispatches from war zones that blogs at ARedRover.com