The Cyberpeople are busy this week. My Facebook news feed is filled with causes, political arguments, moral statements, issue positions, photos of suffering people, cries for help, and hashtags for this cause or that. We live in an age where news and opinions are available at our fingertips in two seconds. The online world is saturated with activism and issues.
I’ve noticed that the real-life world around me is oddly silent on the problem of dead Syrian babies, dead unborn babies, dead officers, and dead African-Americans.
There are a few things that I find disturbing about this.
First, I find the Facebook world irrationally dichotomistic on many issues. For example, in the matter of the shootings of African-Americans and police officers. I see some people posting a lot of #blacklivesmatter, and other people posting a lot of #policelivesmatter. Don’t both police lives and black lives matter? Can’t I care about both police officers and black people? Do I have to pick? I think that the heart behind these posts are good. People want to show their care for a group of people that are hurting. But in my view, making a case for it seems to indicate that there is a legitimate position stating that black lives or police lives don’t matter, and clearly this is not the case! In reality, do these “sides” really exist? I would imagine that there are very few people who are happy when an either African-American or a police officer dies. I think the real line is drawn between the psychos who maliciously shoot people and the people who want to live in a safe, fair society. In my opinion, the problem of a false division (and possibly the violence itself?) among people groups is perpetuated by attention in the media– the professional kind and the social kind. Black lives matter. Police lives matter. White lives matter, Asian lives matter, Hispanic lives matter, librarian lives matter, accountant lives matter, teacher lives matter. Because human lives matter. So let’s live our daily lives like we believe that–let’s stop posting our hashtags and go be nice to some people today.
The second thing that disturbs me about the social media saturation of issues is that I see far more “awareness” being raised online than I see people who are actually, physically, non-virutually doing something about these issues. Friends, posting an article on Facebook doesn’t count as activism unless you are also actively involved in the cause. People are willing to post their outrage over injustice; we’re not often willing to actually take a day and do something that makes a physical impact. I know I’m guilty of this! I really hate posting my political opinions on Facebook, because it reminds me that I’m not actually doing anything active like calling senators or circulating petitions or volunteering. I don’t feel like I need to share my opinions with 921 people (minus whoever unfriends me after reading this post) who don’t care. I don’t say this to condemn those who are politically active online. Many of you have a platform to post political items; I don’t. There are enough people posting my same ideas about government. If I want to make a difference, I need to get out there and do something with my voice and with my hands.
The same goes for the ten thousand causes I see floating around cyberspace. I don’t care if your favorite cause is homeless puppies or defeating Isis. If all you do is Instagram a clever meme, you’re not doing anything to further your cause. Those kids in Uganda are still going to be hungry whether or not you post a picture of a kid with big brown eyes and a distended belly. If you want to make a difference, go make a donation to World Vision. Or go volunteer with the Peace Corps. Or sell your house,move to Uganda, learn Lugandan, and train young mothers how to cook nutritious food. Then, once you’ve done something real, then post that picture, along with a link to your organization so others to get involved, too.
Here’s the million dollar question: Do I care, or do I just want to look like I care?
Ask yourself that. Be honest.
Here’s my challenge, to me and to you. Log off your computer and close down your apps. Go do something this weekend that makes a real difference. Be a real activist. And then blog about your experience– not so you can look good, but so other people can be inspired and do the same thing.
Make someone’s life better.
Fight for justice.
Heal a hurting heart.
Cover image copyright Breana Johnson 2015