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A Guide to being an Activist on Facebook

For all those that want to share the things they’re passionate about without making people say things like, ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist, I just think men and women should be equal.’

I’ve noticed a few friends of mine on Facebook that are activists, and while I think their passion and their drive is admirable, I often see or hear of how their posts are doing the opposite of what they intend.  That is why I thought I’d give some advice on how I think this can be avoided, whether on Facebook or any other social media platform. There will be a few quotes from Kurt Vonnegut that I find relevant because 1. he’s brilliant, 2. – ∞ see #1. First off, before I seem overly harsh on you:

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That said,

1. Don’t over-share. There is nothing that is going to make people ignore your cause more than seeing posts about it by you every hour, or even every day. I have even seen some people post articles within a minute of each other – that’s one way I can tell you didn’t even bother to read the article you thought was important enough to share! Simply sharing because of a title you agree with is not a good idea. If you’re going to share something about a cause you care about or a controversial issue, then you should be able to have an intelligent discussion about it. Quality over quantity here folks. You need to hit them hard with the emotions or reasons, and then back off for awhile and let it sink in. You need to make sure it was worth your time before you try and convince them it’s worth theirs.

2. Don’t solely share those types of posts. Even if you only post once a week, and all you ever post is an article related to that same issue, you have some invisible eye-rolls headed your way. This is how people will come to associate you with your given topic, and both of you in what is most likely a negative light. Probably not drastically negative – this isn’t unfriend material usually (unless they super oppose you (though even then they might just be your top commenter)) – but in the sense of ‘oh great, at it again. Next.’ They will begin to ignore anything by you, and what is probably worse, come to associate your topic in the same way. If they see your topic crop up in the news, they will probably sigh and change the channel.

3. Be respectful. If people argue, don’t use swear words back at them, and don’t simply call them an idiot. Don’t even imply that they are. This might make some people reply backing you with “you tell ’em!” comments, but a lot of those people are probably already strongly supporting you. The people you’re trying to affect, the silent, on-the-fence people (henceforth known as llamas), are going to see that and feel like they might be made fun of if they ask a dumb question or show a different side of the issue, and they will remain on that fence.

4. Answer questions. As long as you are relatively sure they’re not trolling you with their question, you should answer them. No matter how obvious you think the answer is, no matter if the answer could be found in a five second Google search. If you’re an activist, then I assume you know a lot about your topic – and here’s your chance to show that. Of course the caveat here is to not seem like a know-it-all, and not to make yourself seem better than them or more righteous because you knew it. Be humble.

5. If you’re wrong, admit it. I’m not saying admit that your cause is wrong, what I mean is that if you post an erroneous statistic or it turns out your article has already been Snoped out, then if you’re confronted about it (after researching yourself to make sure it actually is false) apologize gracefully. Out of all of my advice, this is possibly the hardest. We often have pride in our causes and admitting we were wrong about something seems much the same as saying our cause isn’t valid. This is actually not the case – you can respectfully point out that while the figures may be wrong, it is still an issue that deserves attention and then add some other information backing you up (that you hopefully triple-checked this time). If you stubbornly dig your heels in or simply accuse the other person of not caring by pointing it out, you will be telling those llamas that you not only care about your subject to the point of arguing about it, but to the point that you will continue to stand by information that has been proven wrong. This will cause the llamas to question all of the other information you put out there. And they’re already dealing with a lot of wind up there on that fence, so don’t push the llamas the other way.

6. Mix in humor. If you want a good example of this, look at George Takei. To do this you don’t have to be a funny person yourself, although that does help. If you can mix light humor into your posts about serious issues, or into your introductions to articles about serious issues, that’s great. More people are going to be interested. But even if you can’t do this, all is not lost. Simply post things that you think are funny in between your serious posts. I would even say at a higher ratio than 2:1, more than two funny things for every serious thing. This will make people look at your posts in general with more interest, and it will make them consider your serious posts as more weighty, since you’ll be more known for being funny or posting amusing things. They will know that when you post something serious, that you mean it (as per #1).

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7. Care about other people’s problems or issues. One of the things about people who care about world issues is, they tend to be caring people. And if you show that you care about what they care about, or at least show interest or concern, they will probably respond in like kind. Comment on their posts, ask questions, and even share them now and again if it rings true to you. Another part of this is, other people’s personal problems. If you see someone struggling and you reach out to them in a sincere way, chances are they will probably regard anything you say in a more positive light. Not that you should be nice to people purely because you hope that they will like your most recent post about the endangered purple rhinos in New Zealand, but showing that you care about individuals will also show that you genuinely care about these issues, and your sincerity will ring truer in your posts.

8. Be graceful, not pretentious. There is always, always, always going to be something about any given topic that you do not know, or a new perspective that you have not considered. If someone brings up a point you hadn’t considered, even if you disagree with it, consider it before discarding it. Read articles or posts from those who disagree with you, and not to figure out how to counter them, but how to better understand them. And just remember, you are not better than other people for knowing more, and they are not better than you for correcting you if you make an error. Everyone has different experiences that may have lead them to believe what they do now.

9. Check your sources. I know some of the time you might not have time, and sometimes emotional truths are more important than physical numbers. But still, if you’re going to be a warrior for some sort of cause, you need to at least try to be knowledgeable on your topic. Don’t believe everything you read – both sides of any issue are likely to take the same study or the same numbers and twist them or take them out of context to prove what they want. Don’t follow something blindly, or you won’t be much of a leader to those llamas.

10. Never stop caring and sharing. This may seem at odds with the first couple, but it’s not. All good things in moderation should apply to sharing, but it doesn’t have to apply to your other efforts. Keep donating, keep volunteering, keep protesting. Don’t give up just because you’re not getting the amount of comments and likes you’re hoping for. It all matters, and you may be affecting many of the llamas without realizing it. Llamas can be pretty quiet (yeah, they can also spit in your face, but don’t give up even then).

I know a lot of people deeply care about their issues, so much so that they feel other people should be bombarded with them. A lot of people feel that the average llama should feel overwhelmed that sex trafficking is still a huge problem in the USA and all over the world, that Syria’s children are still being affected by the horror of their every day and it could mean worse things for the future, that there is such violence in Russia against LGBT people, that there are so few characters of color in video games. And you know what? Maybe they should be. But most people can’t take it. Not all at once, and not every day. It’s all too much. They will shut down, and you will lose your audience. This is why you need to choose what you share so carefully.

If you follow these rules, I believe people will begin to respect your views and regard you and your topic in a positive light. And if that happens, I can almost guarantee that instead of changing that channel with a sigh, those llamas are going to come to you and say, “hey, I saw this on the news. What do you think about it?”

I leave you with more wise words from Vonnegut:

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One thought on “A Guide to being an Activist on Facebook

  1. Pingback: Liebster Award Nomination | An Inkling

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