Fads water down social media movements

by Katie Koach, Staff Columnist

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






The advent of social media has allowed for many to show their support for social justice causes and start revolutionary movements. The message of “BlackLivesMatter” should be a testament to the powerful connection between social media and social awareness. In a sense, technology has given a voice to the voiceless, power to the powerless.

However, sometimes, this type of activism isn’t enough to dismantle the injustices within our country.

Creating awareness is a great outcome of sharing posts, but that is not enough. Organizations need donations and people to volunteer, but most people feel their moral responsibility to a cause is finished once they’ve tweeted and shared on a computer screen.

Take the murder of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014. It seemed as though overnight “BlackLivesMatter” was trending across multiple social media platforms.

Protests erupted and people kept informed through social media. However, the hype died away, while the brave people in Missouri were still fighting for justice. The protesting has still not ceased, but people outside of Ferguson have forgotten or ignored the cause.

Business freshman Aquilino Sanchez, said that the distance between ourselves and the realities of the protests generate apathy.

“I think it’s the distance really because when you’re not really there experiencing it full on and witnessing all of it kind of puts a barrier between it,” Sanchez said. “There’s not really much you can do about it, you can say you want to but you’re not actually living it so that makes it harder to step in.”

Whether if it’s distance or not caring, people rarely talk about Ferguson on social media anymore.

Social media is such a revolutionary way to interact and spread one’s message, but it also has created a world of apathetic followers who seek the next disposable trend.”

Trends have always made their way through society, but social media allows people to selectively follow their favorite trends. That includes more than what fashionable for spring this year.

Bringing awareness is the hottest trend, or in the case of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the coldest.

The problem with the nonchalant approach to activism online is that people have extremely short attention spans, especially when people turn awareness campaigns into fads. Creating awareness is good, but it does not matter if people only pay attention for five minutes.

“People start caring about something but then they just forget it,” junior psychology major Lauren Sonder said. “It’s just about hype and I don’t understand why people just don’t keep following up.”

If people actually cared they could do more than just pushing the “share” button. Organizations need volunteers and money. Sharing might make someone else volunteer or donate, but if a person feels strongly enough to put a cause on a page with their name than they should be willing to help more.

Communications professional, Allison Smith talks about how awareness campaigns are usually sneaky attempts to bring something more to their organization, in her article for Why Dev.

“‘Awareness’ is a great rationale for almost any communications-related endeavor,” Smith wrote. “Why do we need to amass a social media following? To raise awareness of our charity, of course. Why do we need to take selfies with penises in socks? To raise awareness of testicular cancer, naturally.”

Awareness campaigns are about money. That’s what the organization really wants from the sharing, liking, and trending.

In his article to the Entrepreneur, Chris Bennett, CEO and co-founder of Soldsie, wrote about how businesses, like non-profits, use social media for awareness that generate funds.

“Social media is not just about generating awareness anymore,” Benett wrote. “It’s about generating revenue. The most effective brands already know this, and they are getting ahead.”

While businesses are making money for themselves, non-profits are trying to collect funds for their cause. Whether it’s pushing products or generating awareness, companies and organizations are both looking to get money.

Sharing and liking posts helps to spread the messages, but in the end that is not what the organization truly needs.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email