I haven’t been using facebook for almost 3 months now. I haven’t shared any good reads or important news stories and I’ve had to hold back on commenting on current affairs and social trends.
I was a regular active facebook user that utilised its full capacity to connect, network and share. From parenting pages, to discussion groups, to creating events and promoting ideas, facebook was my public channel. I did post a few photos of my son in between the interesting quotes, and I often commented on friends’ posts but mainly to present a point of view on an article or issue they’re raising.
But then I stopped all this, through one deactivation.
The problem I’m realising is that in indulging in a culture of online liking, sharing and commenting, we begin to believe that we are somehow, to some extent, making a difference. Well we are making a difference in that we are adding to the amount of data people scroll through on their devices, but what are we doing to address real grievances?
If making a change requires challenging cultural hegemony through raising consciousness, it is logical to believe that awareness through facebook could be a suitable avenue, through sharing articles and posting statuses on political ideas. But how do we measure whether this methodology is directly contributing to the goal of raising consciousness?
Awareness … as in knowing that something is going on … yes that can effectively be delivered through facebook. But awareness … as in a realisation of the problem … how can we expect to achieve this through online channels?
I’m starting to believe social media is a planned and corrosive distraction to numb us from moving in an influential and coordinated way towards change. I’m not here to fantasize about traditional forms of political subversion. But I will say that we need to critically assess our methodology when online avenues have replaced what used to be collective action.
When there is a dire cause, now activists try to get people to like a page about it. How does this a) raise awareness and b) address the cause?
Let’s say we are angry about Target’s sexualisation of children, for example, and we have reached 10,000 likes and that’s huge, but what next? We have 10,000 likes sitting there, but most consumers who consumed the like page, have not changed their purchasing choices, and ok Target does hear of the likes, posts a letter explaining the situation, but simply keeps on going.
So instead of fuelling this delusion of change, I think we need to remember that we cannot give up the real work of raising consciousness and advocating against injustice. If the Arab spring remained online, no power would have shrugged. And for us in the West, if our complaints remain online, no corporate power will slightly even blink.
Corporations are already onto creating online like pages to causes, just highlighting how futile our online efforts are against cultural capitalism. Our work is empty.
So, for me, now that I’m not on facebook, I’m faced with the pressing question: how can I address political problems? Where do I start?
And I think a lot of young people need to get away from social media to begin to realise that they need to do more collectively.