For a while, every time a new Instagram story featured some social cause, I associated it with the Spanish phrase “activismo sin dientes.” Its translation: “activism without teeth.”
Politically charged posts were a charade to me. Friends posted flowery pictures in support of women’s rights, not to catalyze meaningful change, but to enhance the aesthetic of their online identity. While they never had bad intentions, I took their passion as complete bluff.
I also saw it as lip service. These people didn’t seem to take further action for the urgent issues they posted about. Even though I philosophically agreed with many of these viral movements, I stubbornly refused to ever join in. I could make a real effort — by contacting representatives and supporting local nonprofits — without putting on a show.
I realized my own ridiculousness this past May. Alabama’s lawmakers passed a nearly-total ban on abortions, news outlets reported.
It was a puncturing punch to the gut as a woman. The ban was an attack on bodily autonomy, but I also felt like I was being told I couldn’t make my own decisions in general.
Because I felt so belittled, the outpouring of support from every corner of the Internet was that much more overwhelming. Chills ran down my limbs as I clicked through Instagram story after Instagram story with calls to action.
With the mass visibility of resistance, there was solidarity. Knowing that others were just as angry, I was even more empowered to rally.
I now see social media as a crucial step in activism. The organization on Facebook during the Arab Spring famously sparked pro-democratic revolutions throughout the Middle East. The #MeToo movement emboldened victims of sexual misconduct to share their experiences, holding men accountable for misconduct and establishing a new behavioral precedent. The circulation of videos and images of police brutality continue to galvanize a revamped campaign for justice.
But social media also inspired me this summer, allowing me to learn about and collaborate with Love Machine. This group of change-making mothers, sisters and friends in Columbus, Ohio, marches, bakes, organizes clothing sales and leads craft workshops. All proceeds support organizations like The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio and LSS CHOICES for Victims of Domestic Violence.
The spread of information on social media is actually a catalyst for real social change. After all, people can’t fight for a cause if they don’t know about it.
My old accusations of widespread complacency were also unreasonable. There are too many worthy causes to count, and one person surely can’t be expected to crusade for all of them, let alone even more than a few.
But not doing anything at all is problematic. What matters is that you find issues that resonate most with you, and you follow up your words with actions.
And “action” means something different to everyone. Some people choose to give financially while others volunteer their time. However, money and time aren’t dispensable for everyone. “Action” could mean being an ally and defending the rights of those who feel most marginalized.
Action always means voting for brave candidates who will take a stand against cruelty and prejudice. And action might also mean campaigning on social media. Like writing for this newspaper, social media is a critical form of information dissemination.
Bottom line: If you couple your compassion with conviction, you’re doing something right.
When tragedies used to break the news, the old me was irritated to see friends and families grumbling online. But when injustice is publicized now, I’m heartened to log on and see my community persistent and eager to make the world a better place.
Georgia Tuckerman CM ’22 is from Columbus, Ohio. She’s passionate about government and foreign affairs and enjoys playing tennis and eating ice cream.