The presence of social media has certainly changed the world in a number of ways, and for better or worse, it's here to say.
During its short history, social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have been utilized dozens of times as communication tools for groups without a voice. We saw this clearly during the Arab Spring and the England Riots of 2011. But while social media helps to get the word out, it doesn't guarantee positive results.
At the very least, social media can help spur debate. But we have to ask ourselves - is social media activism enough?
In our ideologically divided world, there are many potential causes to support, and social media helps bring them to the surface.
On such example, a Snapchat video of a woman named only as 'Khulood', has brought women's rights onto the world stage once again. Spurring much public debate, the video shows the Saudi woman wearing a short skirt and top as she walks through the Heritage Village of Ushayqir, 100 miles north of Riyadh.
After it posted, 'Khulood' was arrested and interrogated for breaking the countries strict dress code. An article from Human Rights Watch describes the issue in more detail.
The Snapchat video has accomplished the first step, bringing awareness and dialogue to the issue. However, the second step, action beyond social media leading to lasting change, requires a bit more work.
Therefore, when social media piques our interest about social wrongs, like in the case of 'Khulood', we are given an opportunity to learn more, or even get involved. For instance, by doing a quick search on the rights of women and girls in Saudi Arabia, you will quickly discover the following information:
- Adult women in Saudi Arabia need permission from a male guardian to do things such as travel, marry, or exit prison.
- Permission is required for women to work or access healthcare.
- Transactions are difficult for women to accomplish without consent, such as renting an apartment of filing legal claims.
- Women are banned from driving cars.
Here is where the rubber meets the road. You can forget an issue you've heard about on social media, or actually get involved.
In the specific case of 'Khulood', there are a number of ways to transition from public discussion to a phase of action, connecting that bridge between social media and activism.
Here are a few ideas to do this. You could learn about issues affecting the world through organizations such as Human Rights Watch, or even donate money to support their cause. You could share opinions with friends or family, start an organization in your local community, or, at the very, very least, hop online and write a blog.
There are challenges in the world, and even the U.S. has its own share of problems. Not the least of which is a President whose behavior is reportedly being used to teach employees about sexual harassment.
Clearly, we have some issues to address, and social media can be a good tool to highlight your cause. But if you're feeling really inspired, take it a step further and begin the process towards change.