by Rosa Conrad and Matthew Chase

images-3We live in a world saturated in technology and media. Many of us have a device that connects us to the rest of the world. Our networks and relations are no longer limited to the city or community we live in, especially as we learn to navigate the Internet. We can now connect to other parts of the world we never have visited or known. We can access a substantial wealth of information with a simple Google search, bringing up thousands of websites, videos, and posts on our computer screens. We do not necessarily need to be experts to know something. Rather, we only need a stable Wi-Fi connection and the skills to navigate the digital world. People can connect instantly and share information about anything from daily experiences to educational resources to global and local events.

Online+ActivismSocial media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube allow us to not just share our own everyday experiences but also share important developments occurring around the world. Some have even used social media to start a movement. We can readily see this with online social movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #YesAllWomen, Kony 2012, and the use of social media during the protests and revolutions happening in the Middle East. These sites have provided an opportunity to create a space where people inform and share issues to a potentially global audience. SocRogueScholars itself was created for the purpose of empowering silenced voices and raising public awareness about social justice.

15855236526_f011e17a96_bLike real-life spaces for conversations and movements, however, social media is not a perfect space. As people engage in these movements for social justice, they are also faced with resistance and opposition. Although constructive criticism and civil behavior would be ideal, it is not always the case. With #BlackLivesMatter and #YesAllWomen, for example, it is not at all uncommon for people to resort to demeaning, victimizing, and verbally violent tactics. Disagreement can easily turn into retaliation, and the issue can be made worse as a result of online anonymity. There is a complicit lack of responsibility or accountability for people who prefer to have their real-life identity concealed online. It is important to emphasize that this inclination toward aggression and retaliation is not limited to one side or group. They are tactics that can be used on all sides of social media and of justice.

As we explore the issues of navigating online conversations and movements, we need to remind ourselves that these spaces are not necessarily positive, nor are they solely negative. It depends largely on what we bring to the virtual table, and how we approach others who might not agree with us. Social media can offer us a space to raise awareness and bring different people together under a cause, but it can also work to divide people and to spread misinformation.