Social Media and Online Activism-SMW Monrovia

Authored by: Talkay Media (Gerald Hodges) & Sleepless in Monrovia (Joshua S. Kulah)

We all can agree that the rise of social media has opened up unimaginable doors to connectivity around the world, and it is here to stay. From giving us an opportunity to connect with family, friends, co-workers and brands we care about, to providing 2.6 plus billion people around the world a platform to engage in activism – demanding accountability, peace, equality and freedom. These are fundamental rights every living being is entitled to, and the fight is not left to a single individual calling himself/herself “Activist”, which has become quite a trend today.

Imagine living and not being able to afford food to eat, clothes to wear, a roof over your head, and water to drink after electing a government who you trusted to lead you and manage your resources. Imagine you or someone you know (be it friend, family or neighbor) being disqualified for an opportunity because of their race, gender, sexuality or ethnicity. Imagine you are a college graduate who has been unemployed for over three years due to bad governance and corruption. Imagine that the human race is about to be extinct due to the air pollution, water pollution or other forms of disasters caused by big corporations backed by the government. Imagine your seven year-old daughter, sister or niece being raped by your neighbor. Imagine a seventeen year-old boy from your community being beaten in the street by community dwellers because he walks “feminine.” 

These are only a few instances that show why we all need to engage in activism or advocacy. Whether we are directly affected or not by any of these injustices, we are connected to someone who has been impacted. Hence, as citizens of the world, we have a binding responsibility and duty to not only fight for our rights, but the rights of others. Excitingly, the advent of social media has given us a huge tool that we can leverage, regardless of our time and distance, to raise our voices and take action against injustices that threaten the existence of our race.

Internet or online activismcame to rise in 2010 with theArab Spring, when people going through revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa used social media to share photos and videos calling the attention of the global community to their plights. In the United States, the#MeTooMovement and#BlackLivesMatterare two other examples of how social media has been used to raise awareness around gender inequality and racial injustice, respectively. From the single click of a button, no matter where we are, we can proactively participate in demanding our rights and calling for social justice.

In Liberia, social media is also being leveraged by different users to raise awareness around social injustices. Last year, Sleepless in Monrovia used social media to galvanize people and change a sexist policy that did not allow women unescorted by men to enter Sajj the Bar. The most consistent one this year has been the #ThursdayInBlack Movement, under the auspices of theWorld Council of Churchesand the Liberia Feminist Forum-wearing black as awareness; in solidarity with victims of and in advocacy against all forms of sexual and gender based violence. For several months now, many concerned Liberians have been showing solidarity by wearing black every Thursday as a call to action in support of women and children who continue to be sexually abused. Though the campaign is yet to achieve the desired outcome, it has to some extent created a platform for further raising awareness and mobilization. Though social media could be used as a tool for raising awareness and building support, real change only comes by getting out of our comfort zone to take tangible action. Nonetheless, every collective action starts from mobilization and dialogue.

In September of 2018, another prominent display of social media activism in Liberia was when the world saw Liberians reacting on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to the news of missing L$16 billiononly a few months after President Weah announced that the Central Bank of Liberia would be pumping $25 million USD into the market to “mop-up the economy.” The hashtag, #BringBackOurMoney, was viral and it inspired large protests around the country. Now other countries have copied the theme and hashtag to do social media advocacyin their parts of the world. #BringBackOurMOney is no longer only a Liberian thing. If you just search the internet with the hashtag, you will find countless people doing their form of social media activism.

It is without question that social media is the driving tool behind almost every advocacy in our contemporary context. If the whole advocacy and activism thing sounds like it is for only special kind of people to start or do, we say that’s not true. We believe everyone ought to be an advocate for something in life. Besides advocating against social injustices, people also advocate for the protection of existing forms of social justice. We all use and have access to social media and everyone is affected by a form of social justice, both directly and indirectly. Just a few weeks ago, every Liberian was affected by the change in the price of data and removal of the 3-day Free Call Promotion. Social media helps us tell our stories about any and everything. Activism is just another form of storytelling, in our opinion. Just as the Kardasians are able to share their story, just as we get to watch people on Facebook Live share their stories, you too can share your story and advocate on your social media about something that is important to you!

Before the rise of social media, the world depended on the few institutions and governments who had access and power to narrate the story of the world. It was because of the lack of access to information and social media that the rest of the world believed that Africa was a dark continent. Now, it is up to us to share our stories and change the perception others have of things they don’t know about. Like Chimamanda Adichie said in her TedTalk, “there is a huge danger [in] only knowing one story about a [anything]…. single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Therefore, you should harness the power of your social media and tell your story!

Featured Image: Social Media Week Monrovia

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