While we, face times with a rise in one’s wish of being not caught being politically incorrect, we come across different methods nodded upon to be appropriate to express your opinion on matters that need to be amplified, one such method is Internet Activism. People using their platform and avenue to spread awareness for a cause that we feel should be brought to the attention of the people and they should be educated about different perspectives, in ways often see individuals who posit themselves as activists for posting over various platforms about politics and societal issues and when they are not actually creating any political or societal outcome from those initiatives. This is what is called armchair activism and ‘armchair activist or slacktivist’ stands for someone who does believe and support a cause but engages in actions performed via the internet and it’s woke culture in support of any cause but is regarded as requiring little time or involvement from the post. This belief that social media activism by itself is supposed to be sufficient or creates a real, physical change in the system is a slippery concept with the actions taken through armchair activism only involves mild and minimal forms of work like sharing news. Information, articles with an intent in mind that somebody else will see it and do something about it is just the wrong approach, to begin with, it is corrupt to work for a cause when we are waiting for an applause for participating in it.
I have come across several ‘woke individuals’ in my circle who have shown definitely more than a glimpse of that performative display of wokeness and selective outrage over issues when they post their efforts on social media solely to be used as a reaction to gratify their need for acknowledgement and recognition of others to use it as an opportunity to engage in superficial conversations about human rights that, honestly just exposes a bigoted thread of individuals which still adhere to a system that they still benefit from. For example take the recent BlackLivesMatters protests in all 50 states of US and 18 other countries, in response to the severe cases of police brutality in America towards POC and especially towards black people over the years, has sparked an outrage all over the world that something as racism which is superficially condemned everywhere is still infecting human rights and rights to be treated with the same dignity and respect as any other human being in a space of predetermined privilege which is promised based on their skin colour. Voices in our local circles started rising as well but their reaction was the somewhat same and expected for BLM like it should have been for the 2020 Delhi pogrom and riots or Anti-CAA/NRC protests because the cause for which, they are shouting for is not so different from what happened in our own country only a few months prior (3 months). When they felt suffocated with rage over the policeman kneeling over George Floyd even when it was evident George was being choked and suffocated, these people turned their eyes when Faizan was forced to sing the national anthem while he was beaten up to death by police. This is selective outrage, they dissolved the pain of the communities who were displaced at their home but want to post about #blackouttuesday, and those black Instagram boxes are part of performative and armchair activism because they perpetually do nothing but cower solidarity in the name of not speaking up.
However, it is also true that the social media campaign for BLM clearly had a huge impact of reaching out the audience and for gathering people to understand that how systematic racism was being overtly ignored and utilised to benefit from those institutions of oppressions and spreading awareness, it did bring some change, but that change has to be propelled in a direction of impact and that has been only possible when people came to protests in streets in the middle of a global pandemic, the keyword here is ‘impact’, towards the movement because it is not a trend which will be replaced by other sources over the week.
Yes, it is true that posting and discussing politics and social issues over social media platforms have garnered this space of free speech and avenue and it would be incorrect to say that internet activism does not prelude any kind of change, it is only a part of work that has to be gradually done. Online activism does not necessarily become the end goal or just an obligatory step towards change where people fulfil their satisfaction in engagement or efforts towards the movement. Politics is this dynamic and evolving tool of expressing narratives, it requires security to speak, checking of privilege, and social and economic location for creating open spaces for minorities to voice their narratives and struggles. Internet Activism does not have to be Armchair Activism, it is a great way of spreading awareness and then moving forward with the struggles to bring a change and to shift the power dynamics within the hand of the public when the institutions they allotted that duty become corrupt. Internet Activism has to become this tool for mobilization on a scale we never have had access to ever before, rather than just some means to an end, it should be used as a starting place for other platforms to engage in activism and discourse. For internet activism to have that effect over any revolutionary potential for change there has to be a contingency over the struggles until that change is achieved. While the root of social system changes stems from knowledge and awareness it alone cannot do anything accept just result in apathy, where you know what’s happening around you and you’re not really doing anything to do something about it because it doesn’t affect you directly, until the day it does.