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Jan 08 2018
by Alejandra Arevalo

Online Activism Alone Isn't the Solution to Social Issues

By Alejandra Arevalo - Jan 08 2018
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Back in high school, I would constantly take part in volunteering activities and marches. I always tried to make at least a small contribution to the larger change that I want to see in my community. But during my first semester in college, I did nothing like that. My days went by really fast, full of homework, dinners with friends and walks around my new home of New York. As I had no time for charity, I started liking the Facebook pages of non-profit organizations and sharing videos that denounced social inequality. Regretfully, I became a slacktivist, only relying on my computer to voice for the less fortunate from the comfort of my room.

The Internet is embedded in all aspects of our lives and activism isn’t the exception. Thanks to social media, we can share our thoughts and feelings to realize that we aren’t the only ones facing a certain problem or advocating for a certain cause. A recent example is the social media phenomenon #MeToo against sexual harassment and assault. The movement originally started by Tarana Burke in 2006, giving psychological support to young women of color who had been victims of sexual violence. A decade later, the fight cry gained momentum after the several sexual abuse accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, as the actress Alyssa Milano asked women to use the hashtag #metoo to share their experiences of harassment. The thousands of testimonies that were gathered helped to uncover the magnitude of the problem, but by no means achieved to solve it. 

A survey done by the CNBC North American CFO Council showed that many of the largest American corporations haven't taken any actions in response to the movement as they believed that they already have proper policies to prevent and deal with sexual assault in the workplace. This inaction extends to other countries, as in the case of Italy, where there are high social and legal bars for what is considered sexual harassment due to its patriarchal history. Unfortunately, women will continue to be victims of abuse as long as the population maintains a sexist mindset and no changes are made in public policies to effectively condemn the perpetrators. 

The #MeToo movement proved that social media can be used to increase the awareness about a particular social issue and give a voice to the affected people. But if we don’t take real actions offline, all our collective efforts online will be worthless. We must find the middle point between both to make a real change. We must stop being slacktivists only.

After realizing that my Facebook likes and Twitter reposts weren't producing a tangible change I set myself a goal for this new year: engaging again in activism. Most colleges have activism clubs about specific topics and volunteering opportunities, it is just a matter of looking for them. Don't make my mistake of thinking that involving in philanthropic activities is taking out your valuable time. Instead, think of them as chances to improve your community. Engage in actions that you deeply care about and the motivation to continue will come naturally. Even if you don't join a social movement organization, it's possible to make a positive change in your daily life. Raise your voice when you hear a sexist comment, give some food to the homeless in the street corner, be polite with the workers in your campus. All our small efforts will sum up to make a bigger change. Will you join me?

Lead Image Credit: Unsplash

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Alejandra Arevalo - New York University

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