A young woman takes a photograph of herself at a Black Lives Matter protest. Photo courtesy of Kaitlyn Collins / PureWow
Before you get angry, triggered, or decide to cancel someone – no, this is not a message against spreading awareness. It can indeed be a helpful tool for getting your message across, but awareness can only go so far. Social media, especially in recent times, has captivated the eyes and minds of people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Nowadays, anything can be done at the touch of one’s fingertips – sending emails, asking questions, understanding the world and how it functions. The positive and negative effects of this phenomenon are frequently debated, one that appears to be overlooked is the attempt at cultural and social awareness made by our activities on said social media platforms. As the obstacles faced by various marginalized groups are brought to light on phone screens everywhere, more people are made aware of them, but beyond this, what does it actually do to help those who are affected by discrimination, oppression, and other difficulties?
Here is the short answer – they do not. A person can share posts about LGBTQ+ terms, abortion issues, and police brutality, but they may as well be silent if their efforts to make the world better for everyone cease to exist beyond a circle around a profile picture. While we strive to make ourselves feel better by sharing a post we agree with to “spread awareness”, this may come off as performative, especially if no action is clearly being done in reality. To be aware and inclusive of those alike or unlike one’s self, one must look before them.
The key to being inclusive is by actually including people. Do more than just repost about issues – ask those who are struggling, and listen when they wish to speak. Demonstrate kindness and compassion to all people, at all times. If a person is being frequently interrupted or ignored, amplify their voice and listen. Instead of just signing a petition, volunteer for an event, a protest, or a parade. Seek to understand, to believe, and to change, even if that means calling out your own friends.
When an individual puts the “active” in activism, they do not just click “share” and call it a day – they incorporate what they learn into their daily lives, and educate themselves beyond the classroom or the news app. Want to help the disadvantaged? Turn off your phone, look, and listen.