This week’s reading focused in on collective behavior on social media. Transmedia organizing and reporting was proven in What Happens to #Ferguson Affects Ferguson: Net Neutrality, Algorithmic Filtering and Ferguson to be an especially vital tool in the coverage of the social movements in Ferguson—with many people taking part in online activism via hashtags on Twitter and Facebook. This transmedia storytelling covered the events in a way that normal broadcast or print media could not—in real time, and (mostly) unfiltered.
Online activism has always been present in my life—from my earliest days on MySpace where my middle school classmates urged me to change my profile picture to my favorite cartoon to speak out against child abuse. Oh, and let’s not forget the stupid 2010 trend when girls were messaged secretly on Facebook to post where they put their purse as “I like it (place here)” as their status in order to advocate for ovarian cancer (I think?).
Although this week’s readings can point to many successful cases of online mobilization, I couldn’t help but first think of the failed instances of clicktivism during my time here at UCLA. Again, I respect the successes online media has had on movements such as Ferguson, Chapel Hill, and other national/international tragedies; however, I feel that because of these successes, students here on campus rely too heavily on hashtags and Facebook profile photos to advocate for trivial causes. The biggest offender of this is the Vietnamese Student Union during their “scandal” in the fall of 2012 and again in 2013.
The backstory of this was due to an offensive flyer allegedly posted to their office door, VSU wanted to bring the issue of campus climate front-and-center. 2012 did not see much online mobilization, but 2013 brought about their attempt at a hashtag campaign #BeyondTheStereotype. The consequent Facebook event tried to mobilize students to raise this issue to administrators. How?
“Change your profile picture by taking a photo with a positive catch phrase written on your arms or piece of paper (See examples below). If you are comfortable, feel free to add your own narrative to describe how you feel.”
In the end, what did this accomplish? Nothing. Like my middle school days of MySpace profile photos, this effectively accomplished nothing.
Basically, this week’s readings reminded me of why I hold so much biases against VSU. Online mobilization is an incredible tool for millennials to use because it covers events and voices opinions in ways that traditional mobilization failed to do or took longer to do. In this case, VSU’s hashtag campaign for a movement with no tangible end-goal gives online mobilization a bad name, and makes it hard for other legitimate online movements to be taken seriously.