By Heeba Din:
While the mourning in Gaza continues, a new chapter is being written in the history of online activism. The past few weeks has seen thousands of pages and events being created on social media showing solidarity towards the people of Gaza; changing profile pictures, posting pictures, videos, raising awareness about the carnage taking place in Gaza, that too in real time and what not. But what’s really bemusing is that the reaction of this massive magnitude is slowly dwindling into the crowded archives of “clicktivism”.
While there is no denying the fact that such actsÂ are worth condemning, but can signing online petitions, liking the solidarity pages, creating events in the virtual world with an aim to have an impact on ground truly make a difference, or is it just to feel self righteous andÂ part of something big that is taking place? To tell one’s conscience that I am making a difference, this is where the line gets drawn and I am standing on it. Punching your keyboard in anger while uploading a status, changing your profile picture or posting videos, is that what activism has come down to?
According to a recent study by the Journal of sociological science, lesser people are known to follow up the cause they have “liked” on Facebook than to follow it up in the real world. “The study looked at the activity of Save Darfur page on Facebook, which once, was one of the largest causes to be taken on social network. The research team analysed the behaviour of its members over a 989-day period. Out of the one million-plus people who had signed up, less than 3000 ever donated, raising around $90,000 over three years — pitiful statistics compared to the wider Darfur campaign, which raised over $1m in 2008 alone.” The study clearly points out to the prevalence of clickctivism creeping in our society, facilitating the illusion of activism rather than doing something substantial on the ground.
However, the humongous impact social media had on the Arab spring, with some even calling it the social media revolution, theorized the benefits of social media and online activism. Fairly speaking, the presence & impact (to an extent) can’t be denied. But while the voices of dissent grow louder and louder in the virtual world, raising voices and slogans against Israel and supporting Gaza, will that be enough to bring people on streets to make the real revolution take place? How many will actuallyÂ join the event created on the virtual world and make it happen in the real world? Has showing your likes and dislikes, your support and dissent on Facebook or any social platform become an easy way to make a difference?
Not being overly critical, I do accept that we truly have become one “global world” where solidarity extends beyond borders, at least virtually. Maybe uploading an angry status or changing his/her profile picture or signing petitions across the continents becomes the only way to show support for a person from a different time zone as that of the real place of action, or maybe we are just blurring the lines between the real and the virtual worlds.
Amidst all the petitions, posting and uploading, the virtual world took a breather with the Football world cup final 2014, when it was seen passionately posting about the fight between Germany and Argentina. For a moment, the strikes weren’t heard, petitions to be signed were postponed and the siege in Gaza took a back place.
I chose to not change my profile picture supporting one or the other, or ask people to sign petitions or sign them myself, every time I would be about to click the “like” button or post an angry status, the words from Ruth Ozeki’s book, A Tale for the Time Being, filled my head, saying, “It made me sad when I caught myself pretending that everybody out there in cyberspace cared about what I thought, when really nobody gives a shit. And when I multiplied that sad feeling by all the millions of people in their lonely little rooms, furiously writing and posting to their lonely little pages that nobody has time to read because they’re all so busy writing and posting, it kind of broke my heart. ”