I recently read a post on Instagram about war, propaganda, and social media. It talked about how war often has to be justified with propaganda for the mass public to tolerate it, and how sharing other perspectives on social media, perspectives that counter pro-war propaganda, makes it harder for war to be justified. This post had a bit more of a binary focus on truth than I'm comfortable with -- I'm sure I've shared things on Instagram that aren't true, and the things I share are sometimes just propaganda from a different side -- but I appreciated this post and have been thinking more about the value of social media in activism.
Education is a huge part of activism. It's important to me that governance reflects the opinions of the people it governs, and therefore to build the world I want I have to convince more people that it's a world we should build. I think a big part of how I want to participate in activism is education, in structured and unstructured ways, with people who are learning alongside me and with people who are on the edge of participating in causes I care about but aren't there yet, through conversations and essays and zines ...and through sharing things on social media.
A lot of people learn things on social media. This definitely has its pros and cons, but social media as a source of learning doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon. It makes it easier to spread misinformation, but it also makes it easier to spread things like news from Palestinian reporters sharing what's happening on the ground in Gaza. It makes it easier for activists to share perspectives on current events that mainstream media wouldn't share. Social media to me feels like a natural extension of the pamphlets and short writings that have been part of activism for a long time.
I've been thinking about the differences between mainstream media and social media. I want to learn more about how mainstream media decides what to publish -- how are they held accountable to truth and rigor, what prevents them from publishing more radical ideas, where do they get funding and how does that affect their goals and incentives, and so on. I won't claim to know answers to this, but I'm pretty sure that individuals sharing things on social media have different constraints and motivators, and that this can be a good thing.
As I write this, I keep thinking about the harm that social media has done around propaganda it has spread. I don't know what solutions to that will look like, though there are interesting ideas out there. I do know that this doesn't stop me from wanting to use social media to further the causes I care about. I think it's cool that social media allows us to shape each other's feeds and thoughts and activism, and it feels powerful to contribute by sharing the things I find that have been interesting and helpful for me.
I'll finish off by sharing some of the many ways I've appreciated social media's impact on activism: