Reality Bytes Series: Activism

How Our Screens Are Keeping Us Connected and Tearing Us Apart

I love activism and hope that we are all actively trying to improve the world around us at least in some way. I do not, however, love the call-out/cancel culture that has come out of clicktivism – keyboard empowerment. This isn’t to say that no one should be called out when they are way out of line but most times we are putting our social equals on blast for not being “woke” enough, calling for as many people as possible to nail our neighbors to the cross without leaving any room for growth or conversation. 

I follow a lot of activists, social justice warriors, educators, religious leaders, etc. on social media and I’ve seen more and more shaming which leaves me scratching my head in bewilderment. What are we trying to accomplish here? The loudest voices drift further and further apart leaving those in the center feeling confused because neither extreme fits. I’ve seen people attacked for asking questions, simply seeking to understand, and I’ve seen people & brands attacked for remaining silent when silence can simply mean quiet observation and learning. But in today’s world silence is an invitation for judgment and when we judge we decide something is true before we understand context, intentions, or nuances. So quiet isn’t allowed in this very reactive space, statements must be made & evolution has to take place overnight or a target will quickly be placed on your back by cancel culture clicktivists or even worse, neighbors and friends. 

In the Reality Bytes: Media blog, I mentioned how “shaming doesn’t work to change minds, shaming doesn’t soften or open up someone’s heart. Finger-pointing and blame only serve to incite more defensiveness, arguing, and division.” Actively inciting strong reactions oftentimes triggers shock and defenses, which at times serves a purpose with intention, but again, what are we trying to accomplish here? Is it to perpetuate anger and conflict? How can we hold each other and ourselves accountable with love and space to change rather than with shame and convictions? 

I am definitely a passionate person and can easily get wrapped up in my emotions about a subject, which has led me to many arguments and even physical altercations in my past. Someone who I was very close with back in the day said to me, “Jeanie, as soon as you lose your temper you lose the fight because now the attention is on your behavior and not your point – all credibility is lost.” That really stuck with me. 

Marian Wright Edelman Feminism GIF by Women's History Month

I keep asking, “what are we trying to accomplish here?” and it’s my understanding that what we want to accomplish is a change in consciousness because a change in consciousness leads to the bigger goal – social justice – one changed mind at a time. The way we do this is through personal reflection, personal accountability, and most importantly, meaningful conversations. Seeking to understand someone’s experience before demanding they believe what you believe may change your life or at least broaden your perspective. Don’t underestimate how impactful everyday, real-life conversations are. We are all learning and growing. Tearing down your neighbor on Facebook or Instagram for their lack of awareness doesn’t help your cause. It is possible to lovingly call your neighbor IN – to a private & powerful conversation rather than hatefully calling them OUT publicly on social media. Loretta J. Ross, is an activist, author, and public intellectual who speaks about “calling in the call-out culture” quite a bit if you want to dig deeper.

I am someone that digs and learns and tries to do better and my greatest teaching moments have been through quiet observations and private conversations. My blind spots have been illuminated around my own white ignorance, privilege, cultural appropriation, gender confusion & insensitivity, falsely promoting things I thought were helpful, all through loving conversations with people who understood my intentions but realized my impact when I was unaware. I share this not because I think I am “right” but because I have been wrong many times and appreciate when I’ve been allowed to be uncomfortable in my learning process without being villanized. 

If you are an activist, may the pursuit of your cause be done with the genuine desire to create change from a place of love for humanity rather than a place of superiority, which drives further oppression. We can lovingly help each other learn. You do not have to accept anything less.