Stop Fighting Marginalization Only for Your Social Media

On Monday, November 20th, I attended the Gainesville Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR) since it was a collaboration between LGBTQ Affairs (the office I work for at UF) and many other groups in the Gainesville area. TDOR is held to honor the trans members of our society who died just for being the way they are. During the event, one person, Ellie Gaustria, spoke about how we need to do more to change the status quo in order to prevent more trans lives from falling. One line struck me in particular: “Stop hiding behind the hashtags."

With the increase of accessibility to social media, the world has seen an increase in social justice awareness. This is a great thing, especially to a person that falls within many marginalized groups – except for when social justice hashtags are misused.

After some sort tragedy or outcome in a social justice movement, people flock to social media to post about it with their hashtags and posts. Ellie told me that some of these hashtags are like #StopRacism, #BlackTransLivesMatter, #FreePalestine and many more. The problem that many of us in marginalized communities have is that people use “social media awareness” in order to feel good about themselves through their simple posts – but then not do anything else for the cause. These empty posts are performative because the perpetrators use our issues in order to put on a better face to the public, but not have to suffer the consequences of being marginalized. It also is a device the privileged frequently use in order to atone for the guilt that their privilege entails. It trivializes the issues we face and makes it seem like they’re meaningless.

Now, you may be thinking that I may be assuming a lot about people, because it is natural to assume the best in people. However, when you are marginalized, you figure out how to find the negatives within people because it’s a natural means of survival. The negatives that I am finding is that people are using social media to gain face and then not continuing to be an advocate afterwards.

To truly understand where I am coming from, I think you’ll understand after I give this anecdote:

When a person says they support something, like for example LGBTQ rights, but choose to say that they’re an advocate. That is where a line is drawn between being a supporter and an advocate. A supporter is just someone whose ideologies align with the cause, but an advocate is actually someone that will fight for those being marginalized. In the example of LGBTQ rights, they are people that will support the idea of it, maybe even tokenize us, but that’s it. But advocates will actively fight for us, because being an advocate never stops. They will shut down homophobic, transphobic rhetoric. Tell people to use the proper pronouns. Being an advocate is not a one-night stand – it’s recurring.

Remember the rainbow profile filters on Facebook right after same-sex marriage was legalized? Many people put on that filter, and that was the end of it for them. People are only just supporters without realizing it, and that needs to change.

Hopefully my example helped you realize my stance on “social media awareness activism.” I know people have good intentions, but there is a difference between intent and impact. Intent is the aspect of an action that you have full control, and impact is the result. Sometimes intent is good, but the impact is bad. Sometimes the opposite. Sometimes it’s either good-good or bad-bad. You may have good intentions with your social media, but it may not have the result that you want.

If the amount of people that only showed support through social media actually put substance behind their support and became advocates, that would be revolutionary. A simple way to start is to help fight. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be a part of a marginalized community to fight for them. Sometimes you have the privilege to fight when they can’t. If you find yourself in this situation –fFight. Don’t be a complacent supporter. Be an advocate.