The age of online activism and how to translate that into real change
The revolution will not be televised... but it will almost definitely be streamed live.
The age of online activism is upon us. For the first time ever, socially conscious individuals the world over are able to connect, mobilise and jointly propagate their message to the rest of the world in real time. We live in an era when trending hashtags can be headline news and dissidents live-tweet military coups.
The power of the internet has been proven time and time again in recent years. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street to #blacklivesmatter, a number of major political movements and social causes have found their voice online. A simple yet powerful message can be amplified like never before.
There are also causes of a more personal nature that benefit greatly from Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and their like. For instance, the Ice Bucket Challenge did more to promote awareness and understanding of ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, than hundreds of sincere articles and think-pieces ever could.
The latest viral craze doing the rounds is the '22 Push-Up Challenge', which involves uploading a video of yourself completing 22 push-ups for 22 days, whilst nominating others to do the same. The initiative hopes to raise awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder amongst service men and women.
As ever with such things, it is young people who are invariably instigating and most actively promoting the cause. They have the energy, drive, sincerity and passion that far too many of us lose with age. Some may find their efforts naive and futile, but real change was never born of cynicism or complacency.
That said, there is a sense of frustration amongst the hashtag generation. Changing avatars to display the French Tricolour, or getting drenched with ice cold water may help spread the word and show solidarity, but it somehow doesn't seem like enough. The sense is that these are symbolic gestures rather than effective change.
Whether it's racism or poverty or inequality, it is understandable to feel hopelessly impotent when staring at the black mirror of your phone or computer screen. 'Slacktivism' is the rather cynical term coined to describe the act of caring and acting only to the point of showing concern on the internet.
Of course we all know people whose only concern is to be seen to care. They wear the wristbands and add topical twibbons to their accounts to impress others with their faux concern. But to label everyone or even the majority as 'slactivists' is incredulous in the extreme. On the whole, people want to do more.
The question becomes what exactly? What can the average young person - or anyone - do to change the world for the better? Time and money are severe restrictions on what most of us are able to contribute in any tangible way. We have to work, we have to pay the rent. That doesn't leave many options to change the world.
There are of course certain occupations that allow you to marry earning your crust with doing good, such as becoming a doctor or a human rights lawyer, or perhaps even working for a charity. But one option you may not have considered is social work.
There is certainly a need for bright, intelligent, motivated people to provide support to those who need it the most. In terms of impact and making a difference, there are few such opportunities to better society by improving the lives of others. And in terms of salary and prospects, you'd be surprised at what you can achieve.
Frontline are a charity dedicated to transforming the lives of vulnerable children by recruiting and developing outstanding individuals to be leaders in social work and broader society. They don't want 'slactivists'; they don't need indifferent jobsworths. What they require is people with the drive and burning desire to better the world.
Their two-year leadership development programme offers high-potential graduates and career changers the opportunity to join one of Britain’s most challenging and most rewarding professions. It's a very direct way of turning words into action; to learn vital leadership skills whilst helping children who will never forget your contribution to their lives.
Everything you do can make a difference. Furthering causes and raising awareness in any way is to be applauded. But if you are truly ready and brave enough to put the 'active' into activism, Frontline would welcome your passion. Find out more here.