Last week on The Joyous Life of Jess I wrote a post about digital citizenship, which is the idea of ethical online behavior. To go along with that, this week I will be tackling digital activism, also known as the use of technology to promote change. I connect these two concepts because although digital citizenship and digital activism possess two different definitions, they are quite similar in essence. Besides the use of technology, the foundation of both each lie in the sharing of ideas. Whereas digital citizenship is often something as simple responding positively to a comment online, digital activism can be as big as a worldwide petition. Let’s check it out.
Researching digital activism was interesting because while I had known of and witnessed many examples of digital activism online, I never had a term or concrete definition to apply to the practice. This website helped me to best form an image of what digital activism is exactly in my head. The author claims that all digital activism can be divided into six sections: shaping public opinion, planning an action, protecting activists, sharing a call to action, taking action digitally, and transferring resources. I won’t go into detail in here (most are fairly self-explanatory anyway) but if you are interested, I highly recommend checking out the in-depth post itself. That being said, I believe that digital activism is best described not in words, but examples.
So what does it look like? The Shorty Awards, a program that honors the best of the best in social media, also honored teens who were using digital activism to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Most of the finalists created concepts that dealt with tough issues like suicide, mental illness, and eating disorders. The winner was 16-year-old Gabby Frost who started the Buddy Project. It is a form of digital activism that raises awareness of suicide and mental illness while simultaneously helping people who struggle with these problems. It works by partnering up two people with mutual interests, so that “they’ll have a friend to talk to if they’re ever feeling lonely, sad, etc. or ever feel the need to harm themselves in any way.” However, digital activism isn’t limited to one cause, not by a long shot. Anything from politics, to social causes, and anything in between is considered digital activism. It is what you make of it.
When I first started looking into digital activism, I automatically assumed I had never actively taken part in it. I am not a big social media user to begin with, but when I am on those websites I often choose to not raise my voice on many subjects. A part from my Christian faith, I keep quiet because I do not want my views to be misconstrued. There is a fine line between digital activism and negative dissemination. I never want to find myself in a position of sharing my opinions for all the wrong reasons in all the wrong ways. When I sat down and thought about it, though, I realized that I have been taking part in digital activism nearly every week right here on my blog by sharing God’s word. My audience might be small, but my goal is to make a change by preaching the Bible. It might not seem like much to some, but to me it is awesome to know that I am making some sort of a difference. God is good.
As for my perspective as a future teacher, I think that digital activism does have a place in the classroom. Previously I shared my thoughts on teaching digital citizenship in schools, and how creating a healthy online presence should be a required aspect of education. With digital activism, my views differ. I do not believe that schools should be required to teach digital activism, but it could have a positive bearing on students if teachers choose to implement it. For example, this sixth grade teacher had his students create a blog that raises awareness about the added sugar in many foods that teens consume. I could see myself instituting a similar approach in my future English classroom. I have fallen in love with blogging since starting my digital literacy class, and I plan on using it with my students. To tie this into the subject, students could create posts that teach the public about literacy, both in the United States and worldwide. Perhaps we could also take a week where students research and apply for grants to help our classroom, our school, or our community. It would be digital activism and project-based learning all rolled into one. A true win-win!
All in all, I think it is important for everyone to be educated about digital activism. Technology has become such a large part of our world, that there is no reason that people of all ages who are so inclined shouldn’t take advantage of it for what is important. On the flip side, digital activism is not a requirement. If you don’t feel comfortable with it, don’t feel obligated to participate. Digital activism will look different for each person, and that is okay. Just remember that if you are going to set out to attempt to change the world, please be a kind digital citizen while doing so.
Digital activism does have the power to change the world, for better or worse. #diglitclass
— Jessica Hanks (@jhanks2015) October 28, 2016