Social Awareness as a Fad: A Culture That Hurts More Than it Protects

There’s this thing that keeps occurring in a sort of cyclic way: we learn about an injustice a group of people are experiencing, there’s an outpouring of attention through social media and then everyone collectively stops talking about the injustice. Do we truly believe a few retweets here and there for about two days is really doing something? Or do we not care what the results are as we hit the reshare button to appear socially aware?

Much like fanny packs and colorful leg warmers, this trend of sporadic social awareness and dare I say social activism is just that--sporadic and quickly outdated. However, unlike high-waisted jeans and bell-sleeve tops, there’s no comeback for this kind of awareness. With social media, we’re now able to share news and important information much quicker than we ever could. Despite this ability, the injustices we dedicate our time to last only a few days before everyone pretends the injustice isn’t still existing. We dedicate a few tweets, maybe a Facebook share but do we truly dedicate our time and our efforts to help relieve the people going through disastrous times.

A startling example is Flint. It’s been three years since we’ve heard about the Flint water Crisis and while the issue received a lot of media coverage it all eventually dissipated. Every once in awhile we have a flare of people trying to keep coverage on the water contamination issue but it usually doesn’t last very long. The fact that the people of Flint still haven’t been given clean water is an injustice against humanity which rests upon the structural injustices that are allowed to just happen to people of color. In order to ensure the people of Flint are treated like humans we have to first change the system that allows such injustices occur. That requires that we not only keep talking about Flint and it’s people but that we don’t stop talking. 

Another example of this is the dangers Somali people continually face. From the purge of people fleeing the country in dangerous conditions everyday in order to survive to the people dying right now because of the famine, the coverage on Somalia is a heart-wrenching example of sporadic social awareness. We see the Facebook posts that detail the difficult treks Somali people have to make in order to get to a safer place. We see that they rarely make it and succumb to the journey’s trials, fall victim to organ black market or are sold as slaves in neighboring countries. Despite all of this, hardly anything is accomplished to stop the injustices Somali people face. The reason I'm not attaching a picture to this issue is because all the pictures that come up when you google Somali Tahriib are pictures that strip Somali people of their humanity. Such pictures are inherently dehumanizing the people they want to bring attention to. Instead of me attaching a picture to help you feel guilty about the lack of attention this issue is getting, I'd rather you do some research with genuine intent to increase your knowledge. 

There are countless other examples of the harmful consequences of this lazy form of social activism. We must continually reflect on why we’re retweeting these injustices. Is it just to appear socially aware, to hit that social justice quota and give ourselves a pat on the back? Or do we have genuine care for humanity and want to inspire change in those around us?