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.

6 thoughts on “#InsertYourCauseHere

  1. ShannonMartine

    I think your VSU story highlights how there has to first be a plan of activism in place that social media can enhance and aid rather than it all being social media based. I feel bad that they didn’t make this realization.

  2. caropark

    There’s definitely many failed online campaigns that actually results in belittling the cause. The full execution of these clicktivist-centered movements is vital in accomplishing a successful campaign, which VSU was not able to complete.

  3. samanthaong

    I am almost guilty of clicktivism- my work as a Director in the Cultural Affairs Commission requires me to advocate for these issues on both online and real life platforms. From the perspective of a planner, it is really difficult to make your cause stand out among others- it’s like you have to compete for attention online. Also, random side note, but my friend in the Daily Bruin says the word “awareness” is banned in articles. I think that really points to the way just throwing a cause around is not effective.

  4. fmanto

    Agreed. I think a lot of student groups here on campus take part in “clicktivism” and/or “slacktivism”. I don’t necessarily mean to say that what they’re doing is insignificant. If anything, I think social media is a great place to build awareness. There are a lot of issues I find out about through Facebook, but in the greater scheme of things and in the long-term, I really believe the impact is much smaller. I don’t think change can even happen that quickly, it takes time. These campaigns bring awareness, but how much of them are really changing people’s minds and the way they act?

  5. ShanyaNorman

    As I have a number of friends involved in VSU, I definitely remember this whole controversy and seeing the hashtag and profile pictures changes all over my timeline. However, I definitely had no idea what the whole outcome of it was until you brought it up in your post. I knew it was meant to create awareness, but I now realize that I didn’t see a concrete plan of action or a real result to go along with this campaign. I’m guilty of clicktivism and activism myself, but as people have said and the readings elaborate on, there must be some social organizing and actual action to go along with such a movement in order to really make change. With prominent groups, such as VSU, there really was a possibility to use this online campaign and combine it with action to really create change and they should have done a better job at doing so. I can only hope that the national and global online campaigns have this sort of concrete backing to make real impact.

  6. bhesslegrave

    It’s like we talked about in class on Tuesday. I think we have to pull a part the idea of “Does this count?” and “Is it actually doing anything?” I think it’s important to note that online activism ranges greatly. At first, I thought of clicktivism as in sharing online petitions or the one you mentioned “i like it…(place)” for an ovarian cancer organization. However, there is also online activism as in live tweeting events like Ferguson. In any case, we have to separate these ideas to make sense of the value in online activism

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