Keyboard Activism

I’m always online. I flip through my social media feeds at work, at home, when I’m in line at a restaurant or grocery store, everywhere. My eyes are usually glued to a screen, keeping up with my world and the world in general in one way, shape, or form.

As much as I’m constantly plugged into a never-ending stream of information downloading, though, it’s very rare that I upload information of my own on Facebook. At least, it feels rare in relation to my peers who are sharing posts or writing their own daily. (To those peers, I thank you for the information you spread. It doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.)

In the wake of the shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile last month, I’d written an impassioned Facebook status in my rage, which included the following:

I’ve made the mistake of neglecting the use of social media as a platform on which I can communicate important issues or insights, thinking my “offline activism” would be sufficient, believing at one point that I can keep my personal life and my activism exclusive from one another on social media when that in itself is the most problematic use of my privilege.

However, my activity on my personal Facebook timeline has only marginally increased since publishing that status, and I feel a little insecure about the hypocrisy that might demonstrate. While I engage in conversations on my peers’ posts daily, I don’t know what’s stopping me from writing original content or sharing others’ content on my own timeline more frequently. I imagine it’s a combination of explanations: I had deliberately ceased most of my Facebook activity last year except to promote events for Mosaic in the hopes that less frequent postings would increase the value in them — I had the mentality that I didn’t want these important posts to get “lost” among my other posts. That decrease in social media activity has become a habit quite difficult to break. I’m also learning that I don’t have the physical or mental stamina to constantly be engaged in online conversations sparked by my own posts (see “Let’s Agree to Disagree”). At least, I don’t have as much stamina as I’d like.

It’s that question of stamina for online conversations, I think, that’s most salient to me. While I’m proud of what composure I am able to maintain while behind a computer screen, I am so much better wired to have conversations face-to-face when it comes to issues of social justice. I find myself wondering, Does this make me less of an advocate? I admire my friends who are courageous and patient enough to share post after post on their timelines, despite it inviting debates in the comment sections (which, again, I find myself participating in much more often than I find myself initiating). I wish I had their stamina. I’m trying to do better on my end. Like I had written in my Facebook status, social media can be an incredible platform for activism, and I certainly don’t want to neglect it.

But then again, I also need to cut myself some slack. I remind myself of the many times I have successfully created spaces for healthy dialogue with nothing but a keyboard. I remind myself that Facebook is not the only platform for activism, especially not for me. Whenever I start giving myself a hard time about my activity on Facebook (or lack thereof), I remind myself of all the other ways I’m an advocate. I’m not just a “keyboard warrior.” I am a sociology student planning to write her honors thesis about racial attitudes in Asian American communities and planning to pursue an advanced degree in Race & Ethnic Studies. I am the founder of a diversity club at a predominantly white institution. I am an organizer. I am an able-bodied cisgender heterosexual middle-class first-generation Filipina American aware of her identity and constantly striving to learn about the way it has me contributing to society. My activism is not contained to the keyboard and should not have to be proved by it. (I haven’t even been explicitly challenged or criticized by anyone else except myself on that, so perhaps I’m writing all of this only for my own purposes.)

Social justice is my fight, but maybe Facebook just isn’t a battlefield where I perform as well.* Am I just making excuses for myself or is this a valid thing to say? I don’t know. It certainly won’t stop me from trying, but it is something I keep in mind for the sake of how I can be a successful activist. Is it wise to choose my battlegrounds like this? How much out of my comfort zone do I push myself before my activism is unsuccessful? Am I overthinking this? Am I just being insecure and comparing myself to others? Are my expectations for myself reasonable? Passion for social justice can express itself in so many ways, and I can’t tell if I’m dissatisfied with my activism simply out of insecurity or an irrational desire to do more than I currently am, or if I truly am just not doing enough.

*Twitter, on the other hand, is where I’m at. Where I am seemingly less outspoken on Facebook, I make up for it ten-fold on Twitter. If that tickles your fancy, follow me @MissManilyn.

Featured image explained: A ring I got at the Social Justice Training Institute which is symbolic of the quote I learned at that same Institute, “A wishbone will not suffice where a backbone is needed.” May I always keep that in mind whenever I reflect upon my “keyboard activism.”


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