As social justice issues continue to be at the forefront of society, it makes one realize the depth and breadth of need and injustice in our world. As such, I am a believer that any act of social justice is worthwhile and important regardless of whether it takes place in person or in an online environment. With that said, I believe the environment in which social justice work takes place has a significant effect on the level of impact that is created.
The website RESET, in an article titled Digital and Online Activism, notes that one of the benefits of online activism is the ability for a variety of voices to be heard that may not normally be heard through traditional media reporting. The online environment allows anybody to state their opinion. However, this article also points out that “digital activism often enjoys the biggest success when it is used as a complementary tool to offline action or is used as the introductory method to encourage people to engage in offline action.” The Problem With Social-Media Protests from The Atlantic furthers this sentiment by pointing out that although online activism can stimulate movements of social justice, they often lose momentum and may not lead to any real, effective change in a real world environment.
We say all the time that actions speak louder than words. In this case, actions in a real world environment speak much louder than words/posts/likes in a virtual environment. Yes, by sharing and being vocal online you can bring issues to others attention. You can voice your opinion and push others for support and change. This is an important step in making issues visible, but does this translate to real change in the real world? I think back to the terrible events in the United States that led to the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement. There were both online and in-person protests and support for change. Without much immediate connection to the issue, I often wonder how much influence those protests had on real change for Black people in America and around the world. Did it create lasting change, or has it failed to maintain momentum and purpose over time?
Perhaps a current event closer to home will give me more perspective. @campmarjorie1 in Regina has its own twitter page. It has been effective at bringing awareness to homelessness and poverty in Regina. Many have responded with meaningful action – bringing food and supplies to those in need. It has also increased political pressure on multiple levels of government. What remains to be seen is how long the movement lasts and whether it leads to lasting change for those in need. I will be following closely to see.