In previous blog posts, I’ve mentioned how anonymity and the Internet turns people into shits, how groups ranging from ISIS to Anonymous utilize social media accounts, and how hiding behind computer screens creates monsters of people.

Now, allow me to elaborate, and also possibly contradict myself in every imaginable way.

bradhoc Photo CC- by bradhoc, “Activism” pre-Twitter era

Digital Activism

No longer are we restricted to an age where activism consists of picket signs and marches at colleges where you will most likely be shot – though it is still alive and well (the Guy Fawkes mask is still worn by protesters and members of Anonymous). This is the digital era, where everything can, and will, be digitized, uploaded, downloaded, mainstreamed, outsourced, and pre-installed. Grassroots campaigns are being booted up via Facebook groups. Kickstarter, GoFundMe and indiegogo campaigns are funding people’s dreams, visions, creations, and movements. People standing on streetcorners with bullhorns is out. Active tweeting is in.

More and more movements, revolutions, voices are being forged via digital connections. The Internet eliminates the geographical, and sometimes political, bounds that people have when trying to find like-minded people to instigate change. In a list of 6 activist functions of technology, the list goes like this: Shaping public opinion, planning action, protecting activists, calling to action, taking digital action, and transferring resources. The list is extremely comprehensive, and any number of mediums are involved: blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. People with a cause have a network. Mobile devices, even in repressive countries (with a little know-how) allow infinite connectivity to other people. Technology is changing the face of revolution.

However, nearly all of these have another side to the coin. The same anonymity that protects activists from harm and death threats, also hides cowards, trolls, and attackers. Calls to action can be made for any cause, only relatively recently were ISIS pages taken down from social media sites. News stories are broken nearly every day of recruits added to terrorist ranks because of connectivity to other countries. Public opinion can be shaped and influenced for the better, as George Takei’s proposed boycott on Indiana shows, but countries like North Korea, and to some extent China, also utilize technology to censor the true goings-out and shape public opinion in favor of their causes. Social media can be used to rally people, but as a good friend of mine pointed out to me, there is no quality control filter on the Internet. For every genuine cause with a purpose, there are 35 others spewing political ideology BS, biases, ignorant, un-educated arguments.. the list goes on.

As I’ve said, technology is a tool. The usage of it is up to us.

Mohammad A. Hamama Photo CC – by Mohammad A. Hamama – also relevant!

Youth of the Nation

Luckily, there are teens / students out there using the Internet for the forces of good. The Buddy Project, founded by Gabby Frost, is a foundation dedicated to helping teens with mental illnesses, bullying issues, and suicide prevention by pairing them up with other teens based on age groups, interests, etc. and essentially giving them a digital pen-pal and a shoulder to lean on. There are infinite numbers of foundations and pages out there dedicated to these types of causes, but The Buddy Project won a Shorty Award for the best Teen Activist page in social media. The foundation is open to all – regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. and the value of something like this simply cannot be understated. The Internet makes bullying a global issue. Faceless attackers face no retribution, but there are supporters. There are good guys out there. The Buddy Project wants to help find them. The Project’s Twitter page consists of motivational speaking, as well as condolences and reassurances that people with mental health issues aren’t simply “faking it” or in control of how they feel. The Buddy Project acknowledges problems, and treats them as such. Activism done right.

The focus is on the people suffering. It’s not on the nay-sayers, nor the monsters hiding behind the screen – it brings the light into focus. It highlights the need for changes. Teenagers, students, aren’t morons. They may be adolescents or even children, but kids know what’s up. They recognize wrong when they see it (unless they’ve been indoctrinated otherwise). Even if schools aren’t encouraging kids to be activists, they should at least be encouraging passion about societal issues. Encourage research before opinions are spewed out for the world to consume.

Chris Scheupp Photo CC – by Chris Scheupp

Do Your Part

When it comes to my own “digital activism,” I do significantly less than people such as Gabby Frost. I’ve signed my fair share of petitions. I’ve voted when I saw options necessary.

The best I try to do is speak in defiance of that which I feel is wrong. CSC’s paper, The Eagle, has been berated with my angry ranting (much like my blog) for the last few years concerning religious bigotry, internet anonymity, violence in media, LGBT / women’s rights, etc. I don’t have a campaign, I don’t have a legion of followers, but I have a voice, and I have the mediums to spread it. I “shape public opinion,” or more accurately, “call to action.” With words I battle ignorance and injustice – though I probably have done my fair share of participating in both of those things regardless, I’m sad to say.

The best I can hope for is that I’ll continue learning, continue trying, and continue improving. If I’ve made even one person feel adequate, justified, or comforted with my words, I consider that a victory.


  1. tristyfishy says:

    The fun part about China is the fact that certain words are censored and if you mention one of these words in a post, it will get taken down. So many students to get their voices out and heard will switch up the “spelling” or use different characters that are loosely related to what it is they are trying to say. The word gets spread either way, and it’s pretty cool. Can’t say the same for North Korea, but there may one day be hope for them. Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

    As for the activism on local part, you already know how I feel about it. Amazing things are getting done with a few clicks of the mouse, and it’s pretty great. I wish everyone would start seeing that these tweets and hashtags actually DO things.

    • jamcfarland says:

      Censorship to me in most forms is a horrifying idea. I’m sure all the major “news” we’re given is funneled through big-business or government-funded places, but at the very least, we have more freedom of expression than other places.

      It still bugs me that China tries to put on a mask of progressive, forward-thinking and modern society, but still has one major news source, one major social media outlet, and so closely monitors everything citizens do. If communism is so flawless, why do they need to resort to shadowy tactics to “protect” it?

      • tristyfishy says:

        Amen to that. Definitely agreed. If you look at the culture instead of the government, it’s a lovely place. Interesting at times…but still.

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