I must be listening to too much Taylor Swift because when I was trying to write a column last week my mind was the blankest of blank spaces. But really, I did feel a push to write about the injustices and the following protests involved with the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, but the only thing stronger than this push was my total inability to do justice to the cause and to contribute something new to the conversation.
It was a good lesson in silence and allowed me to think about when I should shut up and when I should do anything but that. So, the most that I could do was tweet a bunch about these cases, post some links, have some discussions, and then I just stopped. Which I felt really shitty about. This is really part of a pattern I notice with social media and us youths and our subsequent involvement with social causes. It raises the question: How do people decide when to (seemingly) stop caring?
For example, the night of the announcement that Darren Wilson, Mike Brown's killer, wouldn't be indicted, my Twitter and Tumblr feed exploded with posts of outrage, of sorrow, of protest, of calls for actions. But as the days progressed, the posts dwindled down and were replaced with comments about holiday shopping or a really great sandwich somebody ate. This isn't a criticism, since I'm just as guilty and we're allowed to live our own lives and be trivial. It's what you do offline that shows if you actually care or if you're just jumping on some bandwagon to gain social justice cred.
This is all reminiscent of the spread of that Human Rights Coalition logo that everybody made their profile pictures a few years ago. The pink equal sign against a red background colored Facebook for a few weeks before dissapearing completely from our online conciousness. Now, the movement for equality for LGBT+ people is still a very real thing despite the dying out of this fad. The logo falls into the same category of things such as the pink ribbon for breast cancer and whatever that Kony 2012 nonsense was supposed to be.
They're things that act more as symbols to bring awareness and spread information. The HRC logo just was a representation of the cause, but it certainly graced enough Facebook walls to start a dialogue, just as posts about Ferguson aim to do. So the key is following up on these conversations in the "real world." People still care about the fight against breast cancer (maybe not Kony as much, but that was weird to begin with and indeed, part of the reason the Kony campaign was exposed as a scam was due to social media) even if they aren't posting about it. So sure, movements don't usually begin and die with postings online, but social media definitely helps them thrive and reach larger, more diverse demographics.
During a press conference about the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, Robert McCulloch, prosecutor of the case, brought up the use of social media in for creating "nonstop rumors" that he said affected the public opinion of the case. Twitter released a map this week outlining the popularity of hashtags inspired by this events such as #BlackLivesMatter and #WeCan'tBreathe, showing how the news spead across oceans to reach a whole bunch of people who wouldn't have heard anything about it without social media.
As part of the demographic that had to hold their tongues at Thanksgiving dinners and avoided posting opinions on Facebook that our Aunt Janet could see, I'm allowed to be unabashedly obnoxious, especially when it involves us speaking up about issues we give a shit about. For every post you see about how sick people are of hearing about Ferguson, there are a dozen that lead them to feel that way, which is rad.
But you still want to do stuff like tweet about getting toothpaste in your hair or something your friend said, that's what being a dumb human is all about. And yeah, it really doesn't seem fair that you're allowed to seperate yourself from the tragedy in a way that Garner and Brown's families cannot. There's a whole other level of ickiness for someone like me, a white person chockful of privilege. It ends up feeling like everything you post is inconsequential, especially as a journalist whose only means of promotion is pretty much you tweeting out: "Hey! I wrote this article, check it out!" Why should people care? What right to you have to post this while so much infinitely important stuff is going on?
I don't have an answer because there probably isn't one. But thinking critically of how causes are influenced by social-media activity (or inactivity) can help us reflect on our own behaviors offline.
So like, I don't know. It's up to you to decide the most comfortable way for you to talk about things you feel strongly about, while still allowing yourself to write about the relatively unimportant details of your life. Not tweeting about important issues isn't a big deal if you work to spread information and promote the cause with real flesh-and-bone human people.