Back in the day, armchair activism was all about literally sitting down and preaching anyone who had the misfortune of being around. In the digital age, it’s so much more - you can now preach to an even wider audience with minimal engagement while standing up, lying down, sitting upright or in a semi-reclining position.
A note of caution though, try not to turn this into yet another hashtag about insensitivity. This is meant as a helpful reality check, not a scathing criticism of your tea-time activities. I believe that many teens engage in memetic communication and awareness-raising trends to appear woke with minimal effort. I know it is true because I’ve heard some of them admit it. “But even I want to show that I know na. Looks good on my resume na.”
The addictive, like-guaranteeing nature of groupthink allows an us-versus-them attitude to overshadow the original message, allowing diffusion of responsibility
While it’s usually nobody’s business what anyone says on the internet, the problem arises when our 'woke warriors' indulging in armchair activism are misinformed. For those who have a vast following, this means that they can muddle crucial information - even distracting followers from the crux of an issue just to harp on points that their friends haven’t. Here, getting everyone's attention is the goal, rather than trying to make a difference. No, seriously. Please enlighten me on how your 200 Instagram followers are going to be anything but annoyed if you say stuff like “I wish the locust attack happened a few weeks ago, right on the faces of those who stood at their windows clapping for the country’s doctors.”
- Teen armchair 'slacktivism' is the new normal.
- Cancel culture and the need to be "woke" are eclipsing major issues.
- The hypocritical and toxic mob mentality interactions on social media can be countered by change-motivated activities.
More often than not, such communications are redundant, because social media accounts and interactions like this usually just act as echo chambers. Odds are if people follow you, most of them believe the same things as you anyway. You’re not really raising awareness if they’re already, um, aware. It’s just virtue signalling.
In these chambers, all participants become victims of mob mentality.
The addictive, like-guaranteeing nature of groupthink allows an us-versus-them attitude to overshadow the original message, allowing diffusion of responsibility. Why else would tens of thousands of people support Divyangana Trivedi, who was so misinformed she attacked misandry while claiming to attack feminism?
In such scenarios, facts and fact-checking don’t change many minds either. Once people have chosen sides, either mob will resort to nitpicking at any minute aspect or personal attacks in order to triumph over the other, which is exactly the kind of armchair activism that happened in the case above.
The toxic nature of mob mentality is exacerbated by the advent of cancel culture, which I don’t think is applicable everywhere. While it is fully justified to ‘cancel’ artists who are guilty of having committed crimes in the past, it doesn’t do much to hurt the careers of people who have made offensive comments, like comedian and actor Kevin Hart. After facing backlash over his homophobic comments in the past, he had to withdraw himself from hosting the Oscars in 2019, but his movies and stand-up specials still performed well after the backlash died down and everyone went back to thinking he was just being funny.
While I personally do not endorse any of his homophobic comments, it is also worth noting that things said many years ago do not necessarily merit extensive wrath today. While political correctness is, in fact, a good thing, it’s relatively new and therefore the interpretation of certain comments as invalid may be contrary to their validity in the past. Otherwise, the offender would’ve been ‘cancelled’ all the way back in 2009.
There’s also the issue of hypocrisy. Case in point: #CancelYale. Elihu Yale, after whom the prestigious Yale University has been named, was a notorious slave trader, which led to the birth of this hashtag, encouraging the age-old Ivy League University to change its name. Predictably, not too many students who were vocal about #BLM supported this tag that’s obviously within the same scope. They didn’t want to risk their admission or academic careers.
So instead of endorsing the cancel culture, think how you can bring in real change, even from the comfort of your armchair. Start and sign petitions, or contribute to fundraising initiatives. Ensure that you’re always getting the right information by fact-checking stuff on your own. It’s okay to have strong opinions- just do something about them, if they really are that strong.
Picture Credit: Pixabay
The views expressed are the author's own.