Silence, Speaking Up, and Social Media in the Age of Trump

| March 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

With a few exceptions, I have been very quiet online in the weeks and months since Donald Trump was elected, and I’ve spent a lot of time wondering whether that is okay. I woke up the morning after the election and found myself wondering whether I should have been more vocal during the months leading up to the election, knowing that a lot of my Facebook friends from home are Trump supporters. I don’t think I really believe anything I could have shared online would have changed any of their minds, but I wonder whether I should have at least been trying. And now that Trump has been inaugurated, now that so much has been threatened and so many people are so afraid, I wonder whether I should change my quiet ways.

photo credit: reynermedia Facebook page via photopin (license)

[image description: a partial view of a laptop screen, with Facebook open in a browswer window] | photo credit: reynermedia Facebook page via photopin (license)

I find social media pretty exhausting, and—while I know it can be a powerful tool—I do seriously doubt MY ability to change much of anything via Facebook or Twitter or what have you, so I generally don’t bother with using it as a platform to share my views. I’m not sure whether that’s a valid reason not to be speaking my mind, or whether it’s just an excuse for keeping the peace with certain people.Beyond that, there are so many people hurting, and so many targets of hate, and so many wrong things to be angry about, and so many different calls to action for so many different causes that I don’t feel like I know where to focus my energy. As a queer person, do I focus on the hatred Mike Pence and others in the Trump administration have expressed towards the LGBTQIA+ community? As a special educator-in-training, do I focus on the effects of education and healthcare policies on people with disabilities? As a woman, do I focus on our President’s casual bragging about sexual assault? As a friend, as a decent human being, do I focus on the threats to build walls, to discriminate based on religion? Ideally, we need to focus on all of it, and especially to recognize the intersections among all these identities. But when there’s so much to say and do, I worry about what to publicize. I worry about what gets accidentally left out, and I wonder whether not engaging with people online for this reason is throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.When there is so much to say and do, sharing things on social media feels overly selective—why this cause and not that one?—especially since I don’t use it consistently. It’s overwhelming, so I opt out. If I’m not using social media at all, people won’t interpret what I am or am not posting as evidence of whether I care.

In a lot of ways, social media is itself performative. Social media activism feels, on some level, like a way of crafting an image of oneself as an activist as much as actually trying to reach people. It makes me uneasy. I feel like it makes more sense to make sure my real-world presence and work is productive and compassionate and intersectional than to make sure my online presence reflects that.

Then again, I want to find common ground with people. I want to call people in instead of calling them out. When most of the people I interact with in person on a daily basis agree with me, perhaps the Internet is the most viable option for trying to get through to those who don’t.

So every once in a while, I try to make myself seen in the online sphere. I spend too long typing out a carefully worded tweet or post in the hopes it will make someone think, or I force myself to push past the fear of scrutiny and share an article or a petition or a Culture Shock post. Is this a good use of my time and energy? I really don’t know. I guess it depends on who might be listening.

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Category: featured, Politics, Science and Technology, Social Activism

Emily Hurd

About the Author ()

Emily is a special education major from a tiny town in southern Pennsylvania. She's a firm believer in the virtues of art-making, rambling discussion, and consuming excessive amounts of both coffee and tea. Her other interests include reading and writing poetry, poking around in abandoned houses, and procrastinating indefinitely. Her proudest moment involved replacing the word "oil" on construction signs with "fish" so that the signs in question read "fresh fish and chips."

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