Activism is a funny thing here in the good old U.S. of A. We just love our freedom of speech in this country. And we love using our freedom of speech to stand for something! And we come up with lots of things to stand for, whether it is gay rights, gun rights, women’s rights, kids rights, race rights, poor people’s rights, rich people’s rights, animal rights, video game rights… you get the point. We like to talk about rights. And depending on the subject, we definitely like to paint signs with colorful, witty slogans, stand outside buildings and talk (or scream) about our rights, and while it is a very odd or abstract way to be heard in theory, it can really be quite effective if it is done right. However, we’re not here to talk about how people do it right. We’re here to talk about how people do it…. maybe… how should I put it…. um…. not so right?
People who decide to… activate… about something (yeah, didn’t sound right to me either) can do it in a variety of ways. recently I came across some Facebook activists. Yup. Facebook is a great place to stand up for something too. There’s nothing wrong with that. You might have those friends who hate seeing socially or politically conscious status updates and remove your posts from their news feed, or worse (GASP) unfriend you, but that’s really no big deal. If a politically conscious person’s worse crime is being redundant, well I can think of worse things.
Still, Social media can be a great example of activism gone wrong. A great example of this happened to a Facebook friend of mine the other day. After hearing numerous positive reviews about the food and service of the fast food vendor “Chic-Fil-A” she decided try one of their delicious chicken sandwiches. No problem yet. Until she posted about how good the sandwich was on Facebook. Cue the socially conscious crowd, who began to passive-aggressively tell her that she was a bad (or at least an ignorant person) for buying one of Chic-Fil-A’s delectable chicken sandwiches and consuming it (if you somehow missed Chic-Fil-A’s big scandal awhile back, you can go check it out here). In an effort to remind said users that she was still a good person, I tried to point out that just because you love chicken, it doesn’t mean that you support the company leader’s beliefs. Then, the same people began to tell me how ignorant I was for supporting a bigoted organization. I got a lecture about all the awful things that the company had done to gays. I again tried to explain that just because someone can’t resist the chicken, doesn’t mean they have any particular views.
In the case of my friend it was particularly ironic. She later told me that she had participated in rallies supporting gay rights, and I’m fairly certain that she did it with the same people who were now not so subtly berating her for her decision to spend five bucks on chicken. Either way, they knew her stance on the issue, yet decided to blow up her post with negativity. I just didn’t get it. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that people who saw my post defending her, that I was somehow defending Chic-Fil-A. I don’t know… maybe I’m just sensitive. I guess she was too, because she eventually deleted the post entirely to stop the fighting
The point is, situations like this happen all too frequently, and especially in online situations. Now, let me make myself perfectly clear. If you feel to make a statement towards an organization through a boycott or a big protest, That is okay. As I said at the beginning, that is a great way to get a point across. However, when you antagonize someone for something as small as eating chicken? How do you think that comes across to anyone who doesn’t support your cause as adamantly as you do? It feels good to come down hard on someone, but often the zeal comes across as simply condescending, or even hateful. That simply isn’t going to do much for your cause. just by defending my friend, I felt completely insulted an alienated. And just imagine if someone already views your cause as wrong or incorrect, they will use that as fire to say “Look at those hateful people. Now you see why I was right all along.” It’s not the best logic, but people do it all the time.
Now, if anyone reads this and thinks to themselves something stupid like “Yeah! You tell those Chic-Fil-A haters a thing or two,” I feel the need to insist that this was one isolated example that happened recently and seemed appropriate to get my point across. Please don’t take this post for any more that what it is. And the point of this post is as follows:
Activists, regardless of their cause, need to stand up for their beliefs with conviction. The line that must be towed, however, is one that keeps the message firm, but positive. That is the only way to convince those not already on the bandwagon that your cause is one worth fighting for. Hate and negativity will only result in… well… more hate and negativity. 9 times out of 10 I think that activists fight for a good cause, and I can get on board. But we all respond much better to a positive message. Gosh… that sounds stupidly obvious now that I said it… er… typed it.. out loud. So get out and… activate…. (yeah, still sounds dumb) stand up for your cause. But do it the right way. Invite people to join. Stay positive. Stand up for your beliefs, but don’t let your beliefs ruin another person’s day! trust me. We’ll all be happier, more understanding and open-minded that way!