Digital Activism - Pro and Cons

September 06, 2017 12:00 AM

Digital Activism, a trending subject in the social good space, is the use of tools like social media, blogs, vlogs, online petitions, mobile phones, SMS etc; to bring about social change. In this era, public opinions on social issues are discussed on open digital platforms. The voice of the masses resounds on important social causes to be heard by those in power.

India has a vast population of 1.34 billion people and according to reports released by TRAI, the number of telephone subscribers is 1.2 billion till May 2017 compared to 1.07 billion users till May 2016. The number of internet users is 32% (ie 432 million). With such a wide user base in India, the Internet is a viable medium for bringing desired social impact.

Digital activism, however, can bring about undesirable results as well owing to its controversial nature. Terms like ‘clicktivism’ and ‘slacktivism’ are being used synonymously with e-activism. These terms are derogatory in nature, they define e-activism as activism through clicks or sign ups, social media posts, and campaigns online, but failing to be effective on-ground.

Propagation through media might not always lead to effectiveness and tends to even backfire, legal action can be taken if it hurts the sentiments of citizens or the Government.

Therefore, it becomes a necessity to have clarity on the need as well as the pros and cons of Digital Activism.

Pros:

  • Mould Public Opinion:
    With an idea of acting collectively, an issue can be tackled. Such ideas can trigger a change in the society, essentially the public shaping their opinion to help the cause.
  • Form an action-plan:
    Social media events, protests and campaigns can be organised with an action-plan taken by a small group of committed activists, students, or like-minded people reaching wider audiences.
  • Put forth a call to action:
    Digital Activism can be used to mass broadcast for a call to action for a social cause invoking the spirit of good.
  • Measuring impact Digitally:
    You can measure the number of people supporting the cause by signing the petition through platforms like change.org. These forms of activism are symbolic and persuasive and thus less harmful.
  • Online Crowdfunding:
    Fundraising online can be beneficial when planned properly and the scope widens to the world with modes of payment now increasingly becoming online via digital wallets, debit/credit cards etc.

Cons:

  • Misinterpretation of Key issue:
    Sometimes, the key issue to be resolved gets lost in the process of campaigning. Take the example of ALS Ice bucket challenge, though it was quite successful, the cause was confused as a fun activity.
  • Unwanted Arguments:
    On social media platforms, we can see the outrage leading to unwanted arguments between people without any meaningful purpose. It is better to avoid such crass comments and arguments.
  • Lack of Anonymity:
    There is no absolute protection even after being anonymous on the web. Planning online is more dangerous than doing so offline since digital footprints are easy to collect and track remotely.
  • Political Hindrances:
    With the necessity of being politically correct, one needs to be careful not to hurt the sentiments of any party, heeding the internet censorship on content.
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