When considering the theme for this mini issue, we wanted to highlight the ways in which people process the world’s current political environment. While social media has allowed for a much-needed platform for communities and individuals to raise their voices, it has also allowed a platform for hate groups and individuals to voice their discontent regarding a more inclusive and globalized society.
The problem only grew when President-elect Donald Trump began invoking social media as a platform for his own personal rants and political and social commentary. While many of us may be familiar with the rants and ramblings of relatives, it is an entirely different experience when a public figure turned political forerunner in a presidential election sets this kind of precedent. It has opened the floodgates for the tolerance and normalization of ignorant beliefs and unwarranted hatred, especially online. When someone feels that they can hide behind a screen, it becomes easier to make inflammatory and offensive statements, and social media has certainly created a larger audience and more targets for this type of abuse.
As social media has given a greater platform to many of these groups and individuals, many of the algorithms these sites use essentially generate “echo chambers” of information to circulate among like-minded people. While this can be a good thing (i.e., providing people with a network of support), it can also foster radicalism and further the political divides we face as a country. Notwithstanding these critiques, social media activism has been a force for good in many ways.
Social media activism can consistently be found in acts of self-care. A transgender woman funding for her transition online is a form of activism. It is a form of activism when black and brown folks take to social media to announce a break from those platforms. This often happens due to rampant normalization of POC murder in the form of video footage spread in the wake of another police brutality case. Social media spaces can be a great platform for self-care, but we must recognize the limitations of these spaces.
We can see this problematic deficit when our peers have to fundraise for life-saving medical procedures. At times, it seems social media is used to attempt to pick up the extra work where society fails. We must consider the ways we can effectively use social media for our benefit while addressing the problematic implications of its increased presence in our politics and daily lives.