“In the information age, knowledge is everywhere… wisdom is rare”
This post is slightly in response to the Kony 2012 online movement that recently took over our online social networks. I’ll spare you my opinions on the movement itself; I’m not nearly qualified enough to weigh in. When I started this blog, it was with the understanding that I would speak on my experiences rather than my opinions, because my only ‘area of expertise’.
My experiences, being a heavy user of social media, have led me to believe that there are two types of people that exist online in the age of “information”, specifically in regards to online activism. Each has both its challenges and its strengths. In terms of information - there are those that have too little, and those that have too much.
Lets start with people with too little information. These are who some call “slacktivists”. Slacktivism is described by Wikipedia as follows: “The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes “feel-good” measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction.” They do what is easy, making gestures that typically serve two purposes: to raise awareness about a cause, but also to build their personal brand as an informed citizen. However there seems to be a silver lining, what they lack in thoughtful comprehension can be made up for in numbers; the speed with which information can be spread through their ranks is both unprecedented and undeniable.
The second type of person are the ones with too much information. Based on what I’ve seen over the last couple days, I’ve termed them the “social media hipsters”. They typically prey on slacktivists, and are generally unable to effectively connect and engage with individuals less passionate or informed about a cause than they may be. They are quick to reject the latest fad in social media activism. Despite this apparent elitism, they are important sources of useful information, and as critical consumers of social media, their perspective can help us find something a bit closer to “truth”.
I’ve been on both sides of the information equation. But if we want to mobilize our online communities to create real world process, we ALL must demand more of ourselves. What needs to change? We all must begin by being more savvy consumers of social media. Anyone can be a 140-character journalist, so it is our job to separate the real from the fake. With a thoughtful commitment to learning, it is likely that “slacktivism” can become a word of the past.
For those with too much information, there needs to be an introduction to humility and empathy. Information is useless unless it can be communicated effectively. We must preach and practice simplicity. The reach of our networks are large, so it is of utmost importance to use that power responsibly and efficiently. We must provide thoughtful alternatives, suggestions, and rehabilitative courses of action, as opposed to condemnation and mockery of those who know less.
We should neither overestimate nor discount the power online communities have in promoting responsible engagement in activist causes throughout the world - but until we commit to finding truth and sharing it both thoughtfully and respectfully, we will not be able to turn information into progress.
Thanks for reading.