Social Media: Not Just Passive Engagement

By Vanessa Naive, Multimedia Editor

 

None of us can deny the power of the viral internet hit.  In a world where YouTube videos spur students to dress up in crazy costumes in front of Montana Hall and shake what they’ve got, we cannot deny the impact of social media on our lives.

Within the social media landscape, is there a difference between passive and active engagement, one where you take engagement from the internet to real life?  Is “liking” or retweeting a post enough?

We’ve seen that on a global level, passive engagement on the internet rarely translates well to active engagement in real life. Despite the enormous number of shares given to the tear-jerking Kony 2012 video on Facebook, I only saw a group of three girls braving the stormy weather to put up signs calling for action on April 20.

We focus so much on the power of social media analytics that sometimes we forget that likes only go so far.  While social media is a fantastic tool for learning about the world, that’s simply what it does: it provides awareness. It doesn’t guarantee engagement or activism.

Simply being aware, however, can sometimes open doors to new passions that would otherwise go unknown.  It can also fall on deaf ears.

During the recent presidential debate between Lindsay Murdock and Dillon Haskell, Haskell criticized Murdock for having a false sense of how effectively ASMSU has reached its constituents. In her rebuttal, Murdock said she is looking to increase ASMSU’s social media presence — which has been lacking in the past.  On their Facebook campaign group, however, a student pointed out that while their group had over 1,000 members, they only cinched 369 votes.

In our current legislative session, student lobbyist Dani Clark has been consistently bringing attention to bills that can positively or negatively impact students, often with calls to write to our legislators.  Despite her good intentions, how many of us have acted on those calls?  I know I certainly haven’t, no matter how much I roll my eyes at our elected body.

What we really need is a way to start the conversation, not just arbitrary cries of “VOTE FOR THIS BILL!  DON’T VOTE FOR THIS BILL!”  An all-caps post is the cyber version of a person on the corner of Main Street pandering a petition for the next great cause.

Used wisely, social media can start a conversation.  It can get the ball rolling.  We pay attention to each other, and social media activism gives us a calling card for those who are potentially interested in stepping past the thousand “likes” to become engaged.

Social media really isn’t that different of a beast — or bobcat — from real life.  When it comes down to it, social media is an extension of our selves from real life to the cyber sphere.  So why isn’t that enough?  Facilitating awareness and connections only goes so far.  While social media is a great starting place, it’s not the be-all, end-all of activism.  What counts is the ground work one puts in not just online, but in the real world too.