Disclaimer/warning: I am writing this as a democratic citizen of Australia. Some of the specific advice towards the bottom is directed towards Australian citizens. I note this because I hate it when blogs and other internet spaces assume things about me that aren’t true – most common assumption being that I’m in the US. More on this in a Future Post.
I’m so not into the disparaging attitude some have towards so-called ‘clicktivism’.
For the uninitiated, clicktivism refers to online activism that is done through clicking. For example, sharing/liking links on Facebook, signing online petitions, that sort of thing.
I actually think clicktivism is awesome. Especially with the recent budget proposal, the internet is a great vehicle for exercising our democratic rights (more on that below).
Why is clicktivism awesome?
The internet is real. It’s not an imaginary world that has no impact on the rest of the world. Navigating around by foot, car or bike is not superior to navigating by clicks. People are still the ones being activists, even with the internet as a vessel. So therefore, they should be and often are listened to.
Anti-clicktivism is often tied up in generationalism – “Back in my day we used to actually march on the streets! Nowadays the young people are just sitting on Facebook “liking” stuff and that passes for protest!”
But online spaces are real spaces. If online spaces are where you and your friends spend your time, it makes sense for you to do your activism there as well. In some ways, it’s just the same as getting the word out on the street.
Word spreads quickly through the internet. Clicktivism has the double whammy of showing that you care about something, and through that letting others know about the issue.In this way, you are spreading the word so that others can take up the mantle if they feel so inspired. Clicktivism is similar to old-school street demonstrations in that way, but if you are protesting on your street, only people in that vicinity or those watching on TV at home can see – and the latter only applies if the protest gets covered by the media. The internet is famous – and infamous – for word spreading quickly and unconstrained by geographical space.
Clicktivism is accessible. There are a variety of reasons why individuals might not be able to participate in ‘traditional’ activism. A sample of these reasons: Physical/neurological/mental disability/differences; geographical disadvantage; no access to transport; scarcity of time and/or money; history of bad experiences with ‘those kind of people’; having to hide your political leanings from your family/workplace/community.
For many people, clicktivism means being able to participate in activism where otherwise they might not have, for one the above reasons, or a combination, or some completely different reasons. It is available for anyone with access to internet .
Better do something small than nothing at all. The social/environmental/ethical issues that need attention are often really big and overwhelming. What can one person do? If you think to yourself, “Well, I don’t have time to organise a protest/start a lobby group/found a charity, there’s nothing I can do,” you’re more likely to end up huddled in a corner, incapacitated by the world’s problems. For people who are passionate about ‘issues’, I recommend picking your main ‘issue/s’ (for want of a better word) that you are concerned about and focussing on them to the extent that you can.
But clicktivism means you don’t have to devote your life to an issue to do something about it. You can more easily do something ‘small’ for a number of causes that come your way.
Activism is not all or nothing. Doing something small is still doing something. I think you’ll find that people who are criticising “clictivists” are usually doing even less activism than those they are criticising.
I am here to encourage people that clicking is okay. But if you have the time/energy/inclination, there are other ways you can engage in activism without leaving the house.
Although, full disclosure, for the first three points, which are still internet-based, you’re still going to need to click.
- Email. If there is something you care about, write to your local member , or the politician responsible for the issue, or as many politicians as you care to email. It doesn’t have to be a beautifully penned or lengthy piece of writing. And if there are several issues you care about, don’t be afraid to badger politicians. They might think you’re a one-person rent-a-crowd, but it just means you have a really big heart to be able to care about so many things.
- Join an online community. A few months ago, I joined the Facebook group for the I Can Network, an organisation for young people on the autism spectrum that focuses on an ‘I can’ attitude rather than the ‘I can’t’ that is often emphasised in autism discourse. Being a part of this network online – posting links, sharing artwork we’ve done, telling my ‘I can’ stories, reading what others post – has been incredibly helpful for me. Especially since my family is the only IRL social network I have where I can talk about successes and challenges related to autism, and I’m far away from my family at the moment.
Community has always been an essential part of activism, and the internet has broadened the definition and capacity of ‘community’.So I encourage you to get involved with other people online who care about the same things as you.
- Educate yourself. There is a lot of information on the internet. Understatement of the century. I’m personally not on Tumblr, but apparently there are a lot of politically engaged people there, and I’ve heard of others getting scared off because they didn’t know of so many ways it was possible to be sexist/racist/transphobic/homophobic. To me, that sounds awesome. It means that issues that were previously only understood in closed circles are now becoming more widely available.
But being told something is wrong for whatever reason can often lead to defensiveness rather than a change. The good thing about the internet is you can JFGI .
And if in your self-educating adventures, someone tells you to check your privilege, click here to find out what that means.
Something that I have found really helpful in terms of educating myself online is reading blogs. It’s an opportunity to gain a perspective of someone with a different experience of the world to you, for example, people of a different racial/cultural background; wealth background; country; sexual orientation; occupation; social circle; physical/mental/ neurological ability, etc. You can hear the stories of people you might never have the opportunity to meet IRL. And that is something to be valued.
- Write a letter. This is pretty much the same as the first dot point. Except apparently a letter has more political power, because it shows that you care enough about the issue to spend 70c (did you know the price of stamps has gone up AGAIN?!) and the price of an envelope, paper, and pen, plus extra time, plus taking the letter to a post office.
I think hand-writing a letter might be even better than typing and printing one, but I’m not sure. Also, you would want to make sure your handwriting is legible (unlike mine).
I would also like to acknowledge that writing a letter requires elements that clicktivism and other forms of internet activism doesn’t. You need the above materials. Plus access to a printer if you are not hand-writing. And technically, you need to either leave the house to deliver the letter, or get someone else to do it. Or if you can’t do either of those for whatever reason, you could always throw it out the front of your house, stamped, and hope some good citizen helps a sista out and drops it into the nearest Post Box. Or whatever your equivalent to the Post Box is – if you live where I do, it’s a mailbag at the school or council.Actually, writing this last part has reminded me how much more accessible online activism is.
Responding to the 2014 proposed budget:
Just like I don’t assume my readers are Australian, I don’t assume my Australian readers are appalled by the recent budget proposal. But if the media and my newsfeed is anything to go by, quite a few people are.
Exercising your democratic rights is not something you can only do once every few years at the polling booth. Politicians have an obligation to represent their people, otherwise they’ll get tossed out in the next round.
And if you don’t have voting rights, you can still speak up and tell politicians that you will let all your voting friends know how rubbish you think their actions are.
So: what can I do about the proposed budget?
The senate has the power to reject or change the budget. So they are your target politicians in this situation. Click here for information on how to contact and address senators/members. You can contact the senator from your area, or any of them that you like, or all of them.
One of my friends suggested doing one thing per day about the budget. For example, one email per day to a different senator.
I was going to write something rousing here to close, but instead I’ve deferred to the immortal words of Jacob Coote (from 1:08)
How you going I’m Jacob Coote from Cook High. Two things happened to me yesterday. The first was I received all this shit about voting for the first time. And so I tore it up and chucked it in the bin cos I reckon politicians are a bunch of dickheads and they bore me stupid.
But then the second thing was my old man wanted to watch this documentary on SBS about insects rooting on fig leaves, so I caught the end of the world news, and I saw these three guys dragging a friend of theirs who’d been shot. And he’d been shot by their own army, cos they were protesting about something. And the only thing I understood about it was that the guy was wearing a Nick Cave t-shirt.
But then I wondered how some guy my age, with my taste in music, gets himself into a situation where his own government is trying to kill him. Just because he has something to say. And I figured that in this country we vote, not to get the best party in because there’s no such thing, but we vote to keep the worst party out.
Cos I kinda like the idea of standing up here and calling our Prime Minister a dickhead without someone trying to shoot me and stop you all from listening. And because I don’t want to end up on the news one day being watched by some ignorant idiot on the other side of the world who believes that this can’t happen to him. Cheers.