I have had a couple of close social media friends cancel their social media accounts lately claiming it was taking too much time out of 'real lives'. This brand new wave of thinking about social media, blogging, tweeting and such has been increasingly bugging me for it came like a wrench to a system I felt had been close to flawless. their decisios have made me question the important of my own involvement in blogging, tweeting and Facebooking. Here are my musings and the thread of my internal struggles to redefine social media's place and significance in my own life.
Now let me get this straight. If and when I use Facebook, twitter or Blogger it's usually to share some funny incident that transpired with my kiddies, or to share an important article, thought or ideas which I feel might be of importance to most of my 'friends' and 'followers'. Social media, for most settled and married adults, no longer has a connotation or the stigma of a place to look for love and flirt with strangers. Especially for advocates of any sort or couch-activists, like myself, it carries with it the feeling of limitless potential that reaches far beyond what we could have accomplished just a few years before. As a self-professed 'whole child education advocate', for example, I find social media particularly helpful in connecting with other like-minded activists in the field.
These two friends abandoning social media for a so-called real life are not the only two experiences throwing doubt into my social media practice. My own husband, who used to be intensely, physically and personally involved in political movements as a young adult, does not see the strength or effectiveness of my social-media-couch-activism. He considers online activism as afar-cry, watered down versions of true activism. He even believes that believing and placing all hope solely on online activism actually helps to weaken any movement. To him, if it happens in virtual time it does not really count in real time and will never lead to real changes.
I think the answer lies in the middle there somewhere. As a mother of two young kids I don't think I will do much good going out there, getting arrested for any cause as if I had no other obligations. Yet, my hubby is also very right in that I should not be fooling myself into thinking that real change will come from signing online petitions, sharing key articles with semi-interested 'friends' or responding strongly to YouTube videos. I do actually have to get up, get off the computer, and make real changes in my life to see the fruits of my actuvism. I could use my money to 'vote' for companies that support causes I believe in, I could speak up about my beliefs amongst my real-life friends (yes, the ones I actually call and talk to on the phone) and I should participate in local politics whenever possible. I could also inform myself about the issues that affect me and my family directly such as education, foods labeling, and safety. I believe that making those changes alone can make a huge difference already for most Americans hardly scratch the surface of the most basic of these issues.
In spite of its overinflated promise of hope and world change, I love social media and do not plan on quitting my couch activism anytime soon. After much thought about its place in my world, I know I can maintain a fairly balanced approach to its limitations and possibilities. Though Facebook, tweeting and blogging I have found a community of women, mothers and teachers and the strength that comes from that is very encouraging. Through social media, for example, I have found that there are thousands upon thousands of teachers out there who are simple just as fed up as me with having non-educators running public schools. I have been able to connect, read and inform myself about the intricacies of the issues from the very shakers and makers at the very top. Through social media in my life, I have become much stronger at expressing, explaining and advocating as a mother, a teacher, a woman and a human being and that makes it a great tool for self-improvement of which I choose not to live without.