5 Common Mistakes Everyone Makes In Online Activism

Online activism is an idea that’s trending. In Trump’s America we’re seeing more protests, campaigns, and hashtags than we’ve ever seen before.

There are hundreds of issues that people are passionate about, from gun violence to education reform to LGBT equality. My goal with my book Slacktivist was not to write another book about social justice theory but to single out the most effective strategies to help create tangible digital action plans to impact real-world challenges. You don’t have to be a professional activist to post about the issue you’re passionate about online. Here are a few tips to help you avoid some of the more common pitfalls of activism.

Fact Checking

Satire, fake news, sponsored content, and biased reports are taking over our newsfeeds.  Satirical comedy news sites like The Onion and The Daily Mash have tricked enough people that Facebook was forced to implement a “Satire tag”, to stop users sharing satire as fact. The problem is that the tags only stops satire sites, not the ones who post misleading statistics, with clickbait headlines or the ones who are posting outright falsehoods. Not all media from any given site is 100% fake. Most are using nuggets of the truth to craft a narrative. Many sources are inherently problematic and use common misconceptions and stereotypes as the basis for their material, which validates many of their readers existing biases. As change makers, we should be reading critically and checking our sources to ensure there is empirically validated evidence to support what we’re posting. I try to use multiple news sources from various sides of the isle to ensure I’m well informed about an issue before I write about it. A Harvard professor created a list of fake or misleading news sites that will come in handy for your activism journey. Keep in mind that it’s important to let your friends and family know about these fake news sites, so if you see something, say something. As the great Abe Lincoln once said, “Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook.”

Picking Your Battles

How comfortable are you with having the slacktivist- killjoy-feminist, snowflake, PC-police label attached to you? For me, I wear it like a badge of honor, but that may not work for everyone and can be particularly troublesome when it impacts your ability to find or maintain employment. If you’re reading Tumblr social justice posts, you’ll probably think you should be calling folks out all the time for everything, but the reality is there needs to be some caution in your engagement with folks online and offline. In some instances, you may want to call someone out but it can be a hard choice if you feel that it might damage your relationship or if that person is in a position of power over you. You only have so much energy to give to the cause. Before engaging in a Twitter war decide if the guy using #feminazi is really worth your effort. I ask myself, “Is this a teachable moment?” and “Will my comment help this person or other people reading this to understand this issue?”

Consistency

One of the hardest parts of creating change is maintaining a level of consistency. One post about an issue by itself probably won’t do much, it’s the body of work together that helps to educate the public on a given topic. One way to become more consistent is to develop a content calendar where you decide what you’ll be posting in advance to help you stay organized. Looking ahead will allow you to plan content around world events and holidays.

The first step in creating your editorial calendar is to determine how many times you plan to publish content. Determine how many times a week or month you are going to put out content, then determine what topics you would like to cover. Be sure to keep in mind hot topics, what is currently trending, upcoming events or holidays, as well as events within your niche when coming up with topics.

Understanding Background Info

A lot of things go viral online, sometimes for all the wrong reasons, and yeah, occasionally causes are one of those things: #Kony2012, anyone? Just because something seems like a good idea in a knee-jerk kind of way, doesn’t mean it actually is a good idea. Regularly reading articles, research, and books about your topic of interest will help you to learn some of the details behind these issues. Growth and change are part of the human condition, we should strive to never stop learning. To be an effective change maker we must continue to educate ourselves on new information coming our way. Some may view continued learning as a bothersome task, but I’d challenge you to consider it self-improvement and vital to our work.  

Time Management in Online Activism

Not everyone is deserving of your time and energy, choose wisely. If your goal is to promote travel, adventure, and discovery in the LGBT community – is your time best spent replying to the troll, 37 comments down on some article? Maybe – maybe not, context is everything. More than likely though, there are better ways to create change than engaging that particular individual. It can be very tempting to get distracted by commenters, emails, and even some of the details of your day to day tasks. One way I keep myself on track is by using a bullet journal to stay focused on my goals. I also use hourly time blocking to help me stay focused on the work that actually helps meet my objectives.

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