The Accidental Activist ?

My life as a Social Worker, taught me that little things matter.

Small acts, can make a difference. And small acts done repeatedly or by enough people, can make a big difference.

And whilst I have left the daily activities of Social Work behind, not all of the Social Worker in me has retired. And essentially, as you may have read here, this is why I started The B Side.

I believe too that I was able to move from wanting to do it, to feeling able to, because a lot of people each did one little thing.

In February 2017, I wrote a rather lengthy Facebook post about marriage. 185 people liked it and 67 commented.

This was not something I expected. But this response got me thinking that maybe there were people who might resonate with and benefit from, my experiences and musings.

So not only did I instantly feel supported, I suddenly felt like I could move from WANTING to DOING. And, perhaps still make a difference in the lives of others.

So, I decided to write.

My mission?

To tell stories, and in doing so, provide people with evidence that they can survive anything. Or start again. And maybe even some kind of blueprint with which to do it.

So, could I become an activist?

Challenging aspects of the status quo of my society and times’ ?

(Crozier De-Rosa and Mackie 2017 p 5)

Maybe.

Albeit, accidentally.

Because people liked something I did. And I started to do more of it.

And who knows how much more that could grow.

The Accidental Activist. I like it. I’m going with that.

Photo Bernie Ryan

However as quickly as I started to feel a little warm about where this was going, the chilly wind of criticism blustered in with the phrase ‘Armchair Activism’.

Which, apparently refers to those little things people did for me, and which I do for others, like ‘liking’ and sharing online. The poor cousin it would seem, to real – world activism of ‘putting bodies on the line’

(Whitehead 2018).

A ‘Slacker’ form of Activism?

And to twist that derogatory knife a little more, it is also now referred to as ‘Slacktivism’  – an online form of ‘self -aggrandising politically ineffective activism’ (Cabrera, Matias and Montoya, 2017 p 400 ). Something, which is more about making ourselves look or feel good than actually making a difference. Things which are done easily and ‘performed with little effort’. (Christensen 2011)

Ouch.

I do agree that there will always be a need for action that occurs off line in order to effect change. And that we ought be mindful that ‘true social progress will not occur on social media alone’ ( Cabrera et al 2017 , p12 ).  

However, is it accurate to say that because a thing can be done with less effort, it cannot still be useful or effective?

It’s a bit like saying that ordering my groceries online is not as useful or effective as me traipsing down on foot to the supermarket.

I know which one I prefer.

This week, I talked with Dr Anita Hutchison about this, and in particular, whether digital activism deserves the slacktivism rap it has acquired.

Dr Anita Hutchison
Photo supplied with permission

Dr Hutchison is from the group Doctors Against Violence Toward Women ( DAVTW). A group who are not only raising awareness but successfully recruiting support for change. Including recently the #SackAlanJones movement. Something which has now resulted in over 100 sponsors withdrawing their support from Alan Jones, and a planned review into his breakfast show.

Cover Image

“laptop-woman-03298” by tlcj878 is licensed under CC0 1.0 

Good on you Dr Hutchison and your colleagues and supporters.

What’s wrong with working smarter, not harder anyway?

So Ok, one might once have associated activism with only labour – intensive actions like The Women’s March in 2017, involving 5 million people across 81 nations, (Crozier De-Rosa and Mackie 2017).

2017, Women March
“2017 Women’s March in D.C.” by Polly Irungu is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

But one now has to wonder how those 5 million marchers were called to action in the first place and then organised.

I’m going to hazard a guess that it wasn’t via ‘snail mail’.

So thanks to you Dr Hutchison, I’ve been reminded that the little things do matter.

Especially to people like you who might become Accidental Activists as a result.

Because if what I am doing is motivating you to continue your efforts out there (Gong 2015, p99), that’s a slackness I’m happy to live with.

References

Cabrera, N., Matias, C. and Montoya, R. (2017). Activism or slacktivism? The potential and pitfalls of social media in contemporary student activism.  Journal of Diversity in Higher Education, 10(4), pp.400-415.

Christensen, S ( 2011 ) Political activities on the Internet: Slacktivism or political participation by other means? First Monday Journal. Volume 16, number 2.

Crozier-De Rosa, S. and Mackie, V. (2018). Remembering women’s activism. Routledge.

Duke, J. (2019). Alan Jones breakfast show to undergo ‘full review’: Macquarie chairman. [online] The Age. Available at: https://www.theage.com.au/business/companies/alan-jones-breakfast-show-to-undergo-full-review-macquarie-chairman-20190910-p52pqs.html [Accessed 14 Sep. 2019].

Gong, R. (2015). Indignation, Inspiration, and Interaction on the Internet: Emotion Work Online in the Anti-Human Trafficking Movement. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 33(1), pp.87-103.

Whitehead, J. (2018). Are You Sitting Comfortably? DIVA Magazine.

Soundtrack for Soundcloud Podcast – ‘Bumbling’ –

https://freemusicarchive.org/genre/Instrumental/?sort=track_date_published&d=1&page=3

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