There was something encouraging about the news last Saturday, television pictures showing the street of London thronged with protesters recaptured the spirit of times when protest was something active – such mass marches are a rare thing . Activists in the past would have been visible; their protest might have been expressed through stickers on car windows declaring their support for a cause; or postcards sent by every member of a group asking politicians to reconsider their position; or they may have taken to the streets in their tens of thousands and marched to a park somewhere to hear speakers confirm what they already knew. Such efforts are unusual in the teen years of the Twenty-First Century. We do not need the trouble and expense of stickers or postcards, we certainly do not need to make the effort to actually go anywhere, instead we have social media.
Issues that might once have caused people angst sufficient to impel them to take action are now addressed in an altogether more passive fashion. Memes are shared on Facebook, hashtags on Twitter; posts are made on forums, comments on websites. It is all very liberating, we can be activists without stirring from the sofa; engage with the issues of the world while still watching Netflix or Skysports. It was never so easy to rally to a cause.
Of course, none of what we share or type does anything to change actual reality, which highlights the silliness of the notion that people on social media are “influencers.” So-called influencers are simply sales people for products and lifestyles, they have no power to change opinion about things that are real, no power to effect any real changes. Social media have replaced religion as the opiate of the people, deluding us into believing that sharing memes online is somehow an act of significance.
Social media give us daily opportunities to be indignant, to be horrified. Instantly, we can share our thoughts with countless “friends” and “followers.” We need have no concern for spelling, punctuation or grammar, for anyone who would criticize is simply an “elitist.” We need have no concern about inciting hatred, because we have an absolute right to free speech. We need have no concern for “facts,” because we believe the government hides the truth. We can vent our rage to the world – and all of it makes not one whit of difference because our inactivity testifies to the fact that none of it matters enough to us for us to go out and do anything.