In reaction to the government shutdown Oct. 1, millions of Americans stormed Capitol Hill — from the confines of their own homes and behind computer screens.
Quasi-activism allows citizens to voice opinions and concerns in an easier manner than protesting. However, inciting change calls for direct action that posting memes and passive-aggressive posts on social media sites cannot create.
Social media keeps us up to date on current events. Without leaving the desk space where my computer sat, I acquired adequate information about the looming government shutdown from Facebook friends. Interestingly enough, these opinions also showed the ramifications of the event: Just like conducting over-the-phone interviews with citizens, gathering data from sites like Facebook and Twitter gives us basic but important information.
That’s about all these sites provide, though. Other than relaying information, citizens shouldn’t over-utilize social media to accomplish things like bringing change to government.
Members of Congress have extensive power, with their affluent bases of campaign contributors and the excessive privileges that come with such positions. We’d all like to imagine our district representatives or state senators as common people, but that outlook is flawed. Members of all three branches of government make decisions contrary to the will of a majority of U.S. citizens every day, which proves government officials don’t face backlash like the rest of us.
Because of this, our contact with them must be face-to-face — or as close to this as possible.
Legislators find it easy enough to avoid protestors at rallies or heated phone calls with constituents. A few sentences laced with suggestions and anger on a Facebook wall? We’re making it much too easy for policy makers and their foolish, selfish decisions to go unscathed.
Let’s take a history lesson.
Imagine this method of activism during Word War II. Sure, memes mocking Adolph Hitler’s mustache and photos posted from armed forces members capturing the atrocities of the attack on Pearl Harbor would provoke thought and create some conversation. But influential people from the era took their ideas to the streets, city halls and the Capitol — forcing action and change.
The most vivid pictures from the ‘60s include protesters doused in water, chased by vicious dogs and a monk setting himself on fire. (I’m not commending self-immolation, but you catch my drift.) These images not only brought issues to the fore of the public’s attention, but they also showed why people needed to demand change. I’m not sure slapstick memes of President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner create any emotion but a quick giggle.
Using social media today to follow current events is a sound idea and in many cases a necessary one. Just as we read works of literature and look through collections of photography to gain knowledge about prominent historical events, tomorrow’s youth will look at sites like Facebook for some context to the past. If we fail to take real action and use our voices rather than keyboards, though, they won’t have much to study.