ECMP 355

When in silence.. you join the oppressor

The topic for today: Slacktivism vs. Activism.

; Slacktivism

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Photo Credit: Elijah Flickr via Compfight cc

; Activism

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Photo Credit: Sally T. Buck Flickr via Compfight cc

WOW, am I glad we are talking about this. A few days before last class I was contemplating my digital presence on Facebook. I have many family and friends who have very different views on the world than I do. And so it goes.. the continuous battle of what to post, what not to post, how much to post about certain subjects, etc.

I have been told many times that I am hypersensitive or hard to talk to because of my position on many social issues. This bothers me. I seriously considered withdrawing from posting articles related to “controversial” topics recently because of how bothered I am. I was and still kind of believe.. I am too “uptight” (If anyone has suggestions on how to combat this.. please fire them off in the comments).

After reading Katia’s blog:

In online spaces, silence speaks as loudly as words

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I crept carefully through her words and considered the comments of the users below. I read the post and the comments over and over trying to figure out where I stand. On one hand, I agreed with not telling others what they use the internet for but on the other, I found a resurgence of personal discovery. As I read on in agreeance about the amount of privilege I possess and the duty I have to the digital world as an educator, I could feel my confidence rise. I could feel that space again where advocacy felt right and silence closed in on me like a dark chamber. 

Here is my argument on why it is important to stand up in real life and online:

I don’t want to be hard to talk to but I honestly don’t think life only extends to cheering for your favorite sports team or traveling to see the seven wonders of the world. While these events are grand and make people happy.. it is important for those of us who have the privilege to recognize it and do something positive with it rather than acknowledge it and scoff at their gift.

As an individual, I value caring about and being passionate about things outside myself. Therefore, I’m not okay with racist, homophobic, sexist, etc. kind of jokes. The love in my heart extends to diverse people around the world and I will go to bat for them at any time to make the world a better place.

I have valued these things for awhile now… but in the beginning, I valued them in silence (for the most part). Until I was told by an admirable professor that “when you say nothing in the presence of something you believe is wrong.. you give power to the oppressor”. you take the side of the oppressor by default…and so began my years of making my voice heard in a room. I don’t often get taken seriously and I do often have my beliefs held against me. I still struggle with how to present who I am in a less “aggressive” and clean cut way. i.e. knowing what to say to someone when they say something you don’t agree with, without getting into an argument.

Que, Facebook, and Twitter. Facebook and Twitter are two places where I have no fear or anxiety sharing my thoughts and the things I believe in. It is so easy for me to just click share and off it goes into the world. I feel good when I do this because it is less scary and it makes me feel like I’m exposing people to ideas they may not have been aware of. I believe people have certain feelings about diverse groups of people due to lack of exposure, knowledge, and empathy. By sharing posts online I hope that I can extend new information to my audience, even if they are on the -against side of my beliefs.

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Photo Credit: European Parliament Flickr via Compfight cc

Does using social media as a platform for activism make me a “poser”, “fake”, or a “slacker”? I don’t think so. I use the internet as a platform for these things because I know exactly how powerful it can be. There are times where I can stand up for what I believe in, in an effective and assertive way but I’m still young, still learning, and still practicing the action of being an activist. I would also argue that social media has motivated me more now than ever to physically participate in activist events. Based on what I like and post, I get notifications for similar events going on near me. Now that is cool.

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Photo Credit: Elijah Flickr via Compfight cc

Social media gives me an out for discussing the things I care about until I can feel confident in my ability to do it in person. I believe that you cannot change anyone’s mind in a battle of yelling or criticism. I often say that “calling people IN”, rather than “calling them OUT” is more useful. No one has open hearts, minds, or ears when they are angry. For the moments I feel confident in my knowledge and ability to have a dialogue with someone I will do so. For the moments I am lacking, and the moments where I am just doing my digital justice duty, I will post about social issues and feel confident that someone has been reached or made aware of something new.

ECMP 355

Internet Shame

I remember reading the news headlines and hearing the name: Amanda Todd. I never took the time to explore it until now. Before today, I avoided the topic. I have this thing against negative news.. not that I never read a negative headline. Sometimes exploring what’s going on is important to understand the environment students are being exposed to or living in. However, many of the comments I hear relating to this incident were vulgar and involved critical shaming of the girl, and placing blame on her and her family. Because of these comments I disengaged from the event and refused to explore what happened. 

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To be honest, I was hesitant to watch the documentary about her story. Suicide is uncomfortable for me, it makes my stomach flip whether it’s someone I know or not. Eventually, I was able to click the play button and I’m happy I did.

I had no idea what the depth of her story was. After watching the film I felt overwhelmed, distraught and brought myself back to where I felt about technology the first time I thought of bringing it into the classroom: fear and loathing. The predation on Amanda Todd by internet blackmailers was the first to make my head spin and next was the comments towards Amanda after her private photo was leaked to the public.

My most prominent thought while watching this documentary was how much I did not want my future children to have access to the online world. I felt an anxiety so great that I couldn’t imagine ever allowing them to use a digital device under my roof.

BUT…reality is, children will not stay off the internet just because you tell them not to or do not give them devices. They will find a way and use the internet despite any effort you make. Ohler mentions in his article The Digital Age, “-both approaches (expulsion and website blocking) reaffirm to students that they should pursue their digital interests outside of school, while adults are not around”.

The only thing that scares me more than youth on the internet boat is youth on the internet boat without a paddle (education).

 

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Photo Credit: Sweet One Flickr via Compfight cc

 

Life is full of decisions and you better believe that children begin to make those decisions at any age. Providing students with education about how to use the internet responsibly and with purpose is critical. That begs the question though… what happens when education doesn’t work? You would be right if you said that education won’t prevent 100% of the world’s problems. Does that mean we ignore the ones it didn’t work on? Do we say too bad for Amanda Todd, she brought it on herself? I don’t think so.

Monica Lewinsky gave some perspective in her TED talk about how the digital world changes the consequences of a person’s actions. We are all human, we all make mistakes but the digital world makes those mistakes viral to a world that didn’t have much business knowing about the situation in the first place.

She describes this digital attention as online shaming. Online shaming takes a person’s poor decision and amplifies it in an uncontained and permanent way. Both her and Amanda Todd experienced online shaming so severe that she describes it as being “humiliated to death”. 

Shortly after Lewinsky’s public announcement of her affairs, her mother slept beside her every day, made her shower with the door open and kept an eye on her for many months. Hearing her say that made my heart ache. The shaming does not end at these two women. She notes in her video that cyberbullying in 2012-2013 went up by 87%. That number is staggering and the suicides are certainly not limited to Amanda Todd.

With these incidents in mind, I wondered how it could be possible to prevent and protect our people from the digital horror of public humiliation. Lewinsky gave me hope. She referred to “clicking with compassion” as a way to combat the online world. Clicking with compassion means that with every click we make a choice. We think about what we are exposing ourselves to and viewing. We can decide whether to be a bystander (reading articles and contributing to slander) or to be an upstander (reporting cyberbullying, etc.). 

There were so many positive notes that she made which easily shot down the anxiety festered in me after watching the Amanda Todd documentary. What happened to her was heartbreaking and gut wrenching. I would never wish this upon anyone but it is a wake-up call to me as an educator.

Not only do we need to educate on safe internet use but we need to educate on upstanding and fighting against being victimized.