Social change is more than a couple of clicks on a keyboard
“Click 'like' to help these poor Ugandan children!”
We’ve all seen it, followed by a picture intended to make even the strongest person shed a few tears. We’re constantly bombarded by these pictures on social media sites such as Facebook.
The people posting these pictures usually mean well and are only trying to raise awareness, but I have to question if they’re perhaps going about it the wrong way. Let’s admit it: no amount of Facebook ‘likes’ is really going to help anyone.
Now, it isn’t all bad. There are proper ways to advocate for a cause through social media, and big name nonprofits have been doing it for years.
However, if you truly want to advocate for a cause and effect change, the best way in is to get physically involved – either with an established organization or work on starting one.
Improper social media advocating is done in multiple ways, usually done under the guise that you’re making a difference. Straight to the point, just sharing a picture on a social media site is not proper advocacy. While this is one way to spread awareness, most of the time these things get lost in the noise of the internet.
Try adding something extra to your picture to get people actively involved in whatever cause you’re supporting. This can be as simple as making a donation to the cause you’re supporting, including the link to a website with accurate information/resources, or it can be as complicated as getting everyone together that supports your cause to rally for the change you wish to see.
"The key to advocacy is being actively and accurately involved"
Social media isn’t evil and can be used for a good cause if you’re willing to put in the effort. The key to advocacy is being actively and accurately involved in whatever you’re supporting. Action speaks louder than words, as they say. Or perhaps “action speaks louder than an internet meme” should be the new phrase.
You may not see yourself as an advocate for anything, but you have to ask yourself what you care about. What are you passionate about? For some it’s a need to change laws to grant citizens more rights. For me it’s about helping those get better treatment in the mental health sector.
Take your passion and find an organization near you and put your talents to work. You’ll find that when you’re advocating for something you love, it results in a growth in personal confidence. Being at the heart and forefront of social change grants a powerful perspective, and it’s one that you will never forget. This is why sitting behind a desk and simply sharing a picture is robbing you of an experience that can transform your life.
I’ve been an active advocate for better treatment across the mental health sector in Washington State for roughly 7 years. It’s made me more confident, resulted in amazing opportunities like representing the USA in Beijing, and allowed me to help other students and individuals around the globe. Advocacy has transformed me into a confident and passionate leader.
I stumbled across my passion, at the age of 14 when I was introduced to the leader of a local youth program called Youth ‘N Action, which changed my life.
My father was a diagnosed schizophrenic (now known as Dissociative Personality Disorder), and I was his primary care taker. I knew nothing about his medications or the mental health world until I joined Youth ‘N Action (YNA). YNA showed me so many ways to spark change. I could see the negative social stigma that followed being the son of someone with mental illness and it always hurt me.
After the course of minor volunteer work for 2 years I found myself speaking in front of teachers, explaining why their students with mental illness should be treated with compassion in an attempt to reduce the negative stigma in schools.
This was followed by working on a public service announcement that aired on televisions across Washington state titled “We are more than our diagnosis.”
Fast forward to now: I’m gauging the level of implementation across Washington of “Family guided-Youth Driven values” throughout the mental health sector. I'm also developing a thorough and helpful guide that explains, in detail, how to avoid improper social media advocacy.
“Log off of the internet and log into your community.”
To conclude, don’t limit yourself to simply advocating on social media. Realize that if we’re all only clicking “like,” no real action will ever take place.
Log off of the internet and log into your community. To truly advocate for change, you have to be a part of the change you want to see. Educate yourself, and actively participate with a nonprofit organization on the causes you’re passionate about.
Gandhi said it best and it’s a quote we all know; “Be the change you wish to see in the world!”