Activism and key moments of change have been constants throughout history—and so too have leading activists. Whether you think of Martin Luther King Jr. or Malala Yousafzai, all activists have one thing in common: a drive to make changes in the world.
But over the course of history activism has been changing, largely because of the rise of the internet which has created a more accessible way to speak up and be heard. Now, thanks to the internet, anyone can fight for their rights and beliefs, and I think that’s something to be celebrated.
However, online activism is largely ridiculed—even though nowhere does it say that activism equals marching in protests—and is often described as ‘lazy’ or even pointless. Indeed, when you Google ‘armchair activism’, the phrase ’Slactivism’ comes up; a phrase which epitomises people’s snobbish view of online activism.
“For many disabled people, traditional activism just isn’t possible.”
But every day online I see strangers and friends alike raise awareness and educate people on a wide range of issues, including ableism, racism, and more. They do incredibly important work. In fact, everything I know about such issues, I’ve learned through the internet and the people who take time out every day to educate people—usually for free. These people care deeply about their beliefs and want to change the world—just like traditional activists.
So why are internet activists treats so differently?
Online movements are a key part of our online experience these days; whether it’s something as simple as taking part in the #DisabledAndCute hashtag, dispelling myths about disabled people, or getting involved in the #BlackLivesMatter movement. These are important movements—and the minute we ridicule and discount them, we also ridicule and discount the people who take part in them, many of whom are disabled.
For many disabled people, traditional activism just isn’t possible. Marches and protests can be long and tiring, which isn’t ideal if you suffer from pain or fatigue—and that’s before you even consider whether the actual venue or planned route is accessible. For many, online activism is the best they can do
“Activism is about changing the world by changing minds.”
I myself do a lot of online charity work, volunteering on a weekly basis with a charity that supports people with hypermobility syndromes, and regularly write content to raise awareness for various other charities. I like to think I’m making a difference. I like to think I’m helping to bring about change—but the messages I’m being fed about online activism are ones of negativity and derision; ones that tell me that what I’m doing isn’t good enough.
But whilst my work isn’t traditional, it’s still necessary. Activism is about changing the world by changing minds—and every week I receive messages from people telling me how much they’ve learned about disability through my writing and tweeting. If that’s not the mark of a successful activist, then I don’t know what is.
So no, online activism isn’t lazy or pointless. It’s important. It makes a difference. And it’s about time people started recognising the work that I and others like me do.