Social media is an incredible tool to promote activism and raise awareness. However, no matter what the cause, there are always people willing to exploit it for financial gain. Last week, Comedy Central’s show South Park made fun of Lance Armstrong (and the recent discovery of his drug use) and the US’s obsession with the Livestrong bracelets. In this clip, they talk about how people become so engrossed with whatever global cause they are ‘wearing on their wrists’ that they forget about why they were supporting the cause to begin with. I think that this is applicable to the role of social media and the existence of virtual activism today.
In Anna Hamilton’s post this week, she wrote, “One potential problem with virtual activism is that it may take the place of conventional activism, which is far more involved and effective.” I think that this is a very interesting point. People all over the world use social media to raise global awareness and send and/or organize aid for the causes they support. However, virtual activism can only do so much; the concern that it may replace conventional activism is a valid one.
The South Park episode pokes fun at people for treating global causes like fashion accessories – spending more time advertising your support than actually doing something about it. Obviously, social media is used in super legitimate, globally beneficial ways by many people/organizations, and the surge in virtual activism is a wonderful, important aspect of ICT development. However, many people end up spreading false information with detrimental effects (i.e. mass re-tweeting a fake picture of the Statue of Liberty underwater, as we discussed in class today) because they don’t take enough time to verify the validity of the information. If people post statuses/tweets/blogs about current events, you’d think they would want them to be correct, right? It’s good to raise awareness, but only if it’s for the right reasons.