Recently I had a conversation with my little sister about how to be social active in the 21st century.
As it peaked my interest, I decided to do a follow-up google search wondering what I could learn from the good-old worldwide web.
What popped up were the following:
“Activism 101 in the 21st century”
“How to become a 21st century Social Activist”
“Activist Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century”
and so on…
After clicking through a few links, I found myself unsatisfied with the results and craving something more.
A hashtag campaign criticizing this.
An Instagram campaign fighting against that.
It’s great. It’s amazing. It’s bringing awareness to the world, people to the streets and change to the society.
But I feel like I cannot keep up.
Back in May I turned 27. It’s not old, but it’s closing in on 30 which is a milestone year in the relay towards adulthood; and either way I think people of all generations can relate to what I am going to say.
Two nights before my birthday I decided to make a pact with myself:
I was going to log off of Facebook and Instagram for one month, I was not going to check my emails after 10 pm, and I was going to turn my computer off and my iPhone on airplane mode every evening before I went to bed.
Now, have I been successful?
Not completely. But I have reduced my time greatly and my consciousness significantly.
And why did I do this?
For reasons I assume most people would: I realized that…
1. I was over-looking the life that was happening right in front of me, and
2. I could no longer stayed grounded and think rationally because I felt over-loaded by all the new information that was coming in all the time.
A quote from the choreographer Akram Khan has been playing in my mind repeatedly: “Our [modern day] trend is to privilege information over wisdom”.
Not only do I find my brain agreeing with these words, but I can feel it’s truth ringing in my veins.
More, more, more, more, MORE!
It seems like we can never have enough these days and nothing we have, do or know is ever good enough. We are bombarded with information—be it on the internet, our phones or even in the streets; we never get a break.
But how does this relate to social change and being socially active?
It relates when it feels like the only way to be socially active these days is via twitter or Instagram; or by staying up to speed on the myriad of global information being published each day. And as I am left feeling more and more helpless, I question if we somehow lack a depth and commitment people once had.
My mind floats back to the 1960s and 1970s.
During these times one did not have the option to “take-part” in the protests simply via their iPhone while sitting on their couch at home. Responding via a tweet of support to the latest social rights protest, feeling they had done their good for the day and then continuing on with their life.
My goal is not to offend anyone because I also have been guilty of this act. But, the time it took back then to do things, receive information was slower, and consequently, I ask:
Did one not also have to be clearer and more decisive about what they were going to focus on, say, and fight for? Was it more necessary for them to make priorities and dedicate themselves to one cause? Did they not have more time [consequentially] to reflect on the causes they were fighting for, and more time to respond and plan the road maps they wanted their movements to take?
I would say yes. And I wonder if consequently it also created more concrete foundations within the people and the movements.
When I did this google search the other day about how to be a social activist in the 21st century, literally every link talked about the importance of the internet and social media. I found myself dying a bit inside as I realized I had been hoping for an enlightenment. For an answer, an idea about some other way to be socially active today.
Of course, google doesn’t have all the answers - and I would be quite hypocritical after writing this article if I finished saying it does. But, it did lead me to ask a new question or two:
For example, …
What does activism look like for ME in the modern age?
And how do I create time for reflection, planning and dedication within MY social activism when everyone else is sprinting around?