My Generation’s “Social Activism”

I go to a school whose members pride themselves as being liberal. On applications for college and other various programs, students love to brag about how they are “social activists” working to help the greater good. They label themselves as feminists, as if the word is a pin they can stick onto their shirts and wear for the day.

Under proper examination, however, it is clear that these students are not change-makers and do-good’ers they claim to be. Their idea of making change is donating $5 to their friend’s online campaign once a year, then posting about it all over social media. To many in my community, this is a common occurrence. Similarly, people will read one article about, for example, Syria, and “spread awareness” (post on Facebook) about it for a day, then move on. Even worse, they will proclaim themselves feminists of members of the Black Lives Matter movement online, but fail to stand up to everyday racist and sexist microaggressions on the street or in the hallways. The saddest part is that these people actually think they are helping. Though it’s great to do things like donate money to worthy causes, it is quite a different thing to essentially exploit an issue for attention and likes online.

Such is one of the greatest issues of my generation: with such an intense focus on the online world, people forget the significance of getting out there and doing real, physical, tangible good. Being an activist is a choice one makes to improve the rights/conditions of oneself and others in the related community; it should not be to draw attention to yourself for being such a good, benevolent citizen or being controversial.

So, how do we stop this? How do we reteach an entire generation to value of activism? In all honesty, I believe we are a lost cause. Almost everyone I know has at some point been guilty of this fake social activism, especially within my age group. Our best hope is to start teaching kids the importance of things like community service and helping others from a younger age, so that if they one day feel the need to stand up and be an activist, it will not be for the purpose of simply joining a movement, but for truly bringing about justice and social change.

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