Anger and Activism

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Show of hands: how many of you have changed your mind about something because you were yelled at or had angry posts or tweets directed at you?

Anger is understandable, especially in the face of the frustratingly slow pace at which social change happens. The trick is to channel that anger into effective means, not just spray that stuff everywhere you go, online or off. That just turns people away, rather than winning them over.

Activism is really tricky, and the tactics that worked at one time no longer do. Activism has to adapt. What I’ve seen be most effective lately is not protests or a barrage of tweets or being all loud and in people’s faces, but rather, people sharing their stories and showing how they are personally affected…and being offended doesn’t really count as suffering.

This is the problem with a lot of “internet activism”. Most of it relies on shoving anger and blame in people’s faces and shrieking about being offended, and the only effect that has is people wanting them to shut up. This turns into validation that they aren’t being heard and so they ramp it up even more, and then get backlash. This only ever escalates into a shit show.

Show people that you’re human, like them. That you deal with the same everyday struggles, and also the struggles you deal with that others might not be aware of, but in a kind way. People don’t respond to blame, attacks or anger. They close off even more. It makes them cling more strongly to their beliefs rather than making them think.

Yeah, it feels good to one up someone and you feel vindicated when you make a point, but how does that make the world better? What’s your true goal? To give yourself a long supply of short term endorphin rushes, or to coax along the change that will eventually make it so that your cause is no longer an issue?

The stories I’ve heard about people who were staunchly against something and who changed their mind about it almost universally were about spending time with who or whatever they opposed, getting to understand it, and then realizing that what they previously believed was wrong. I have never heard of anyone changing their beliefs because they were shamed into it.

© 2015 William Suphan

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