Our world is imperfect. Privilege is afforded to a select few and exclusion happens all around us. Although it is imperfect, it can be changed. We can change our world. Change can happen in a variety of ways, not just by marches, protests and voting booths, but by opening dialogues, teaching others and accepting a diversity of voices and viewpoints. Change is difficult, change can be seen as threatening and online dialogue can get muddled with trolls, irrelevant comments and dissension.
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This week we were presented with a few questions: “can online activism be meaningful and worthwhile?” & “Is it possible to have productive conversations about social justice online?”
My answer is yes. Yes, it can be meaningful and worthwhile and productive, but there are ways to go about talking about a specific cause in such a way that educates the public and opens dialogues.
First, conversations should be conducted in an appropriate venue with an appropriate audience. A dog owner forum would be a great venue to talk about no-kill shelters and spay/neuter clinics while those members might be less receptive to talks about social justice and other non-dog related topics.
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Conversants allow others to voice their opinions in a respectful, meaningful manner. Hopefully the dialogue stays free of over-generalization, name calling and other disrespectful habits that detract from the topic on hand. Openly discussing differing viewpoints allows others to see the different sides of the story and synthesize any information.
According to Caralee Robertson, we need to engage in these conversations to be good digital citizens and that these conversations need to be based on facts, not blown up assumptions.
Online activism can be deeply meaningful and can reach individuals across the world. I think there are a few key things that can keep the dialogue on a meaningful level: knowledge, authenticity, informational about the issues and maintaining an open dialogue with others.
Those supporting a particular issue should be knowledgeable about said issue and about how to solve the problems surrounding the issue. It is one thing to bring light on a problem, but it takes a solution to bring people together and unite them for a cause.
To me, authenticity is a huge deal. If I feel like a cause is “just a fad” I’m less likely to invest my time, money or thought on it. But if a person comes to me with strong feelings and information on why the topic is important , then I’m more likely to learn about it and contribute.
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In addition to authenticity, maintaining an open dialogue is also important for both authenticity and in acknowledging a variety of view points that exist. Diversity makes us stronger, our multitude of voices leads to a more complete narrative and more wholesome solutions.
Please, engage in dialogue, support a cause and discuss social justice. Help the world change, be the change you wish to see! But be prepared for trolls to disrupt the dialogue and for others to not see eye-to-eye with you, acknowledge differences and respect opinions for it is by our differences that we make our world a better place.