By Tyler Kwon
Amidst the rise of social media, a new culture has arisen, a carefully guarded convoy for social justice causes, and one of the most exclusive groups known to man. The members of this group are called “the woke,” and as such, they seek to maintain an awareness of the social and political issues that plague our society, unleashing a fiery blast of rage and knowledge on all who might not see eye to eye with them.
In a time dominated by social unrest and political disarray, the call for “wokeness” seems greater than ever. Maintaining a healthy skepticism and awareness regarding social issues is the first step to creating effective change.
Although social media activism can never replace hands-on action as the central vehicle for social change, we must ensure that when we do use it, we do so with respect and caution.
Browsing through a social activism account, it is easy to be captivated by how unabashed, biting, and cruelly honest many online activists are in defending the rights of the underrepresented, and in turn, villainizing the hegemonic creature. However, much too often social media is used to pursue vengeance and the instant gratification of shutting down others online, becoming counterproductive to social justice causes.
According to internet safety advocate Suren Ramasubu, “The anonymity offered by the Internet allows people to exhibit personality traits that cannot be exhibited in real life. The emotional detachment of the screen makes interactions less real, allowing less censorship.”
Hence, online arguments make for sticky situations: this disconnect allows for the villainization of those we disagree with, limiting our capacities for empathy and understanding when engaged in conflict. As a result, social media often becomes a platform for one-sided and accusatory statements, rather than dialogues that can lead to bridged understandings.
To some extent, it is understandable that many opponents to “the woke” might accuse them of being hyper-sensitive and overly aggressive. However, by no means is this anger invalid or uncalled for. Centuries of systematic oppression have brewed a deep sense of anger and frustration among America’s most mistreated and underprivileged people.
The growth of social media activism is a positive sign that today’s youth has developed a new consciousness regarding this oppression. The way that young people use social media, though, and how they harness their anger as a force for change, is what needs improvement.
When we approach online controversy with common courtesy and resolution in mind, it becomes a valuable tool for the progress of the causes that mean the most to us. Social media has shown its great potential to do so, as it has in providing an outlet for our outrage in response to police violence against African Americans, or as it did when it helped to organize millions throughout the world for this year’s Women’s March.
Today’s woke youth must take cues from these actions and expand on them in order to meet agreements with people who are not already supportive of their causes. Yes, taking the time to scream with our allies about the injustices that anger us is perfectly valid and necessary. But it is also essential that we take the time to speak with those who disagree with respect, patience, and an understanding in order to effectively enact change.