What we see through social media is a generation of ignorant social activists. Young men and women all too willing to care about and defend something they don’t truly understand and refuse to educate themselves further on because they assume the limited information they receive has been vetted by someone more knowledgeable than themselves. This happens on both sides of the fence, with both conservatives and liberals.

I’ve seen arguably intelligent young men and women stand up at banquets and rallies, demanding answers about things like healthcare, DOMA, federal military actions. Asking questions about things they’ve seen on Facebook, on twitter, things that they’ve taken little to no time to research for themselves, and they look like fools. No matter their age, they paint themselves with a red mark that announces ‘I’m not mature enough to be here, to discuss these issues’.

But even so, it isn’t truly about age. It’s about social awareness. You are not discounted until you make a mistake. Say the wrong thing or quote the wrong statistic. Until then, your legitimacy remains intact.

Tumblr is like this.

I’ve seen people furious over gay rights legislation that doesn’t actually exist. Wars that haven’t happened. Most recently text posts with tens of thousands of notes alleging that China and Russia are going to go to war with the US over Syria.

Blogs relaying damaging misinformation written by individuals who can’t seem to be bothered to read a newspaper or use google properly. This is a crippling trend, and no one sees it.

These people get untold attention and affirmation until one person with a large enough follower count points out the flaw in their argument. Corrects the mistake, and shifts the tide. But this doesn’t fix the thousands of people who liked and reblogged the original post. The damage is done.

If there is one thing I’ve learned from working on political campaigns, very little is more damaging than an activist who argues only one side of the story without recognizing the existence of the other; because your opinion, no matter how solid and seemingly factually based, is invalid the second your audience realizes they know more than you.

And the result of all of this is a generation of young activists who don’t understand why they aren’t being taken seriously.

a recent conversation with a colleague regarding social media (via onawingandaswear)

Alright, you know what?  I call bullshit on this.

What you’re seeing is a generation of young activists GROWING UP. I mean, you recognize that this is a ‘kids these days’ argument, right?  That you’re bitching because people who are maybe teens or 20-somethings are demonstrating an inexplicable and damaging lack of life experience?  Who the hell springs full-fledged and perfectly informed into the ranks of social justice?  Like the person who said all this never made a mistake when they were that age—spread mistaken assumptions, pissed somebody off because he or she opened their mouth and said something well-meaning but colossally stupid?

What you’re seeing on the internet is young people who WANT to help, who are trying to help, who maybe are not very good at it but are learning how.  Activism is not an instantly-learned skill set.  It’s a hell of a lot harder than it looks; you never stop learning, and everybody makes their rookie mistakes.  Yeah, unfortunately social media makes it easier than ever before for those mistakes, misinformation and accidental offensiveness to spread.  Damn straight there are problems.

But as a matter of fact they do not all lie on the shoulders of the young people who are Failing To Do Their Research (total falsehood that nobody sees this, by the way; it’s the rallying cry of online activism).  

The internet is a disruptive technology even for politics and activism.  Society is still adjusting its requirements, assumptions, and expectations to a world in which communication is instantaneous, in which all words given the same weight until proven otherwise.  It’s not only a matter of ignorance; it’s also a matter of humans learning how to operate in a society where things that have always been comfortably taken for granted—such as the reputability of news articles and video—cannot be taken for granted anymore.

Complaints like this are, in fact, a prime example of what you’re complaining about, because guess what?  THERE’S RESEARCH ON THIS ISSUE.  And some of the findings are interesting.  For example, seasoned journalists and politicians have fallen prey to this same mind trick.  How many times in the last few years have you seen a national news agency forced to recant a headline it picked up from Twitter?

So hey, I suppose these would-be activists could just stop altogether.  Maybe we’d be better off with a whole generation of people who weren’t into activism and justice at all?

Those ARE your only options: people who try and fuck up repeatedly till they get it right, or people who don’t try at all.  They’re the only two flavors life comes in.

(All the above, by the way, was courtesy of prettyarbitrary.  The post is displaying as if my rant came from dduane, and I don’t want to put words in her mouth.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *