Don’t Just Refresh and Forget

How millennials are losing the power to make real change in a world of social media

We millennials exist in a world formed by social media. Social media is a powerful shaper and mark of our generation. We can use social media as a tool to spread our ideas and to easily get our messages into people’s newsfeed. We have more velocity, speed, and range to our communication than ever before. But all this seems to come at the cost of a lack of commitment. We have an intense willingness to be vocal about causes on social media, paired, paradoxically, with our ability to forget about those causes as quickly as our newsfeed updates itself automatically.

We post about an issue once, but as soon as we press refresh and a few hours pass, our post moves further and farther down the newsfeed. In turn, we stop receiving notifications from our well-meaning post, and by that time we have forgotten about what we once were so passionate. Now multiply this by the number of millennials we know, and we have a well-meaning but declawed generation.

Millennials seem to be impassioned about ideas; we love to fight for a good cause. But often, our well-intentioned love of humanitarian causes devolves into jumping on the bandwagon for as long as it takes to write one post on social media. We saw it with “Stop Kony,” the campaign that created the term “slacktivism,” where one can get the good feelings that come from contributing to a cause without actually accomplishing anything meaningful. We did our part by sharing the video.

We can be deceived into feeling that we are living the perfect balance between the contemplative and active life, simply by posting a quick opinion. Part of this is due to the nature of social media, and part of it is due to a laziness on our part to devote ourselves to the causes we believe are good through actual actions. Many times, we do not go further than sharing the post or an expressing an opinion. Sometimes, we don’t even respond to the comments.

Millennials live in a generation where social media is the norm. While social media’s negative aspects are unescapable, social media is also a tool that can be used powerfully for good. Rather than letting the constant refresh cycle dominate, we should use that constant refreshment to add a new thought or angle to the discussion. We should be careful not to ride the wave of good intentions, but instead, we should use social media as a tool. We have the power to publicly commit to a cause, and we can bolster that support by developing a habit of regularly posting about that cause on social media. We can be the voice that brings the issues back into the continuous present. We can create those apt, well-timed, gracious, and pithy statuses that might provoke someone to thought, or call the issues to life yet again by continuing the conversation into the present that social media is constantly creating.

As millennials, we are uniquely positioned to understand ourselves and social media. We know the trap of the hour-and-a-half Facebook break and want to find ways to dedicate ourselves to these causes we love. We can avoid the refresh cycle by pairing our real love for a good humanitarian cause with our firsthand knowledge of social media’s dangers and benefits.

A short form of this article was originally published here: http://hillsdalecollegian.com/2015/09/dont-just-refresh-and-forget/.