We live in a world where the internet and social media allows us to connect with almost anyone, and while the most common use of this power is to interact with an old friend or watch a funny cat be adorable, it’s easy to notice the true potential it holds. Over the last couple of years, that potential has slowly been coming together in the form of media activism. No matter what you’re view is, you now have the opportunity to get your message out to the public right at your fingertips. So, what impact can this have in our world?
A recent movement you might have noticed would be the Human Rights Campaign’s logo invasion of social media. Changing their traditional blue-and-yellow logo to red, the organization asked their followers to change their current avatars to the new logo and to encourage others to do so as well, in support of the on going battle for gay marriage. In a pleasant surprise, the campaign was more successful than the HRC could have anticipated, and now facebook pages and twitter feeds are full of customized versions of the logo. Among the many too show their support was Asian-American actor George Takei, a popular and well known activist for the awareness of both gay and Japanese rights, whose work has earned him awards from the American Humanist Association. Side note, his logo is on the bottom row, try to find it.
Openly gay and married, Takei has done his best to use social media to educate many on gay rights and to help in whatever way possible. In 2011, when Tennessee proposed a bill titled “Don’t say Gay”, prohibiting teachers to mention homosexuality in the classroom, Takei took action. Believing this was done to ignore the problem in hopes it goes away, he started his own campaign called “It’s okay to be Takei”, humorously offering his similar sounding name as an alternate word for those affected. Held as a child for four years in prison camps alongside his family, Takei also uses the media in attempts to raise awareness about the struggles Japanese Americans have endured here in the United States. He is currently considered a key and positive force in the relations of the two countries, and his efforts were even awarded by the Japanese national government back in 2004.
The big question with media activism is if it’s really capable of making an impact. Many believe this is just “Slacktivism”, a term used to describe those who support something to feel good, but don’t actually put in any effort when it matters. After all, the process of changing your avatar doesn’t exactly exemplify effort. The “Save Darfur Coalition” facebook page has over 1.2 million likes, yet only averages 9 cents in donations per “supporter”. Another problem is if the cause is even reaching the right people. In other words, how many Supreme Court Judges have you befriended on facebook recently? While these are all fair points, I think it’s important to take things in stride and enjoy the small victories. Maybe media activism doesn’t possess the ability to change the entire world just yet, but If posting a picture of an equal sign can make one person out there have a better day, it’s already a success.