“We need change now,” is a social media stance I see often. I can agree with this phrase on many levels. We need change in our government; not only the leaders but also how we interpret our foundation as a country. We need massive change in our healthcare system, education, organizations, immigration policies and in the distribution of our wealth.
There are many aspects of the United States that I would like to see change. We have implemented cyclical systems of poverty and oppression that can feel nearly impossible to shake off.
In bringing social justice and change, we must be careful how we go about it. Placing a “hashtag” in front of a word or phrase does not give it more power or influence. Hashtags and social media strengthen small circles but divide the people as a whole.
While social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter can be useful for mass communication, they leave no room for the tone of what is being said. Posts and tweets can be misconstrued easily and blown out of proportion in arguments. The freedom of speech and press that we have is not to bring changes to our laws and society, but to rightly inform the public. Like many political ideologies, ours is easily perverted by those who have filled the positions outlined by our constitution. We must work within the system we have been given. The only other option is to overthrow our government, which will surely lead to chaos.
Why do we turn to forms of communication we can hide behind to bring social change? I am not writing in opposition of social justice movements. I am calling for humanity. I have seen too many relationships strained and even ended by misinterpretation of social media posts.
When we have actual interactions with people, the only thing that hides us is our outward appearance, which is oftentimes quick to give. We guard ourselves better against slander when we see humanity in front of us. Would you call someone you do not agree with a moron to their face? In front of their children? Social media gives us a chance to be someone we are not, often with fewer ramifications.
Change must be a common consensus. When it is not, it will only last for a short time until the hurt grows to a breaking point at which it will force change again. This is not an easy task. It involves conversing with, showing empathy for and understanding the other side. We let our emotions choose the directions we take and influence our actions. I am not questioning the validity of emotional actions, I am making the point that in some cases, our emotions temporarily blind us to the timing of our actions and the way in which we present ourselves.
Facebook politics will only accomplish fostering ill feelings towards those we disagree with. We must work face-to-face in a way that peacefully respects all those with which we disagree.
Peaceful protest is not only applied to physical actions, but also the use of language — how we talk and interact with one another. If we do not agree with someone, we must work to reconcile with them, not condem them.
One could argue our society has committed grave sins. If we let the inevitable sins which coexist with the human nature of every ideology infect how we perceive and act upon the foundation that has been laid for us to build our society on, we have no foundation at all. It will have been eaten away by the self-appointed righteousness we have given ourselves.