As a blogger for ShoutOut!, I am constantly using the internet to engage with other feminists from around the world, and I love it. Online activism is al amazing too; for feminist issues and more: it helps spread awareness/advocacy, it helps organize and mobilize, and it’s a great tool to view action and reaction. The most unique thing about this [relatively] new form of activism is that anyone can engage in it if they have the passion and dedication. In this post, I’m going to give you my advice for getting started in the world of online activism as well as share advice from successful bloggers who made online activism a huge part of their lives.
Step 1: Be informed. If you want to be an online activist, you have to know what you’re talking about. The best way to do this is to consume information from a variety of sources: Email newsletters (like The Skimm) and Twitter are great ways to know what’s happening as soon as news breaks, and are helpful for following hot topics. My best advice for who to relatively is to see who other people that you admire and look up to are following. Also, YouTube Channels and Podcasts are alternative ways to learn more about new topics. As corny as it sounds, education is a life-long process, and you should never stop learning. TIP: Be careful not to self-censor. It’s really easy to only read news and seek information for topics that you care about, but if you want to be well-rounded, try reading someone’s opinion that you don’t necessarily agree with to learn what others may think.
Step 2: Set goals. You have to ask yourself some questions before you start engaging in online activism: Why are you here? What are you trying to accomplish? Where do you hope to be in 1 month, 6 months, 1 year? You don’t necessarily have to have answers, but just thinking about these topics will help you figure out your goals. Also, this is a good time to figure out what platform you want as your base for your activism (websites like wordpress, blogger, tumblr, or youtube) and expand from there. Pick a username, stick with it, and claim it on all platforms: your blog site, twitter, facebook, pinterest, instagram, tumblr- even if you don’t think you’re going to use it now, you may want to in the future.
Step 3: JUST DO IT. The hardest step in online activism is getting started, so you’ve just got to do it. The best way to get active is be active–comment on other people’s blogs, and be active on social media. Chances are, if you engage with others, they’ll engage with you and you can gain a following that way. Also, it’s important to be consistent– whether that’s posting twice a week, once a week, or bi-weekly, sticking to a schedule is key. An online following will not appear overnight, but if you keep at it your audience will grow.
Bonus Step: Ask for advice from those you admire. I asked a bunch of online activists for advice to anyone who is starting a blog, and for advice for dealing with backlash from haters and trolls, which inevitably will happen. Here are the responses from three bloggers I heard from:
Erin Matson (@erintothemax)–Feminist organizer and writer. Erin has actually written a couple posts about starting a feminist blog and dealing with trolls/hate online, but she had some extra advice to give:
The best way to get active is to be active. Keep a blog, and update it regularly. Comment on other feminist blogs, and be active on Twitter and Facebook — social media is social, so you need to remember it goes both ways. And while this may sound paradoxical, I would also say that going offline sometimes really helps you be effective, too. I mean this two ways. First, taking time for yourself gives you better perspective on the issues you care about, helps you avoid burnout, and can be a nice break from the inevitable trolls. In addition to taking personal time for yourself offline, it’s also good to do some activist work offline — go talk to your legislator about an issue you care about, attend a rally, go to a political panel discussion.
Melissa A. Fabello (@fyeahmfabello)–Feminist activist, sex educator, & managing editor for everydayfeminism.com. She visited JMU last fall (and said that it was an awesome experience!), and she provided me with these links for you all to check out:
When it comes to resources on trolling that I’ve created, I’ve got this article and this video for you. But one of the writers at Everyday Feminism — Carmen Rios — is working on an article that addresses this, and it should be published within the next couple of weeks. So keep an eye out for that!
Ponta (@TypicalFeminist)–Feminist activist who runs Sex&Privilege, a project that gives people a place to share how they feel their place in society has or hasn’t affected them—sexually or otherwise. Ponta had some great advice as well:
Make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into before you dive in. If you have really high anxiety levels, or have depression that is triggered easily by harassment, online activism might not be for you. Also, decide beforehand whether or not you want to try to stay anonymous (and know that if someone really, really tries to find out who you are, they still might be able to). It’s probably a good idea not to use your real name for many reasons, but especially if you’re going into a career that might require you to seem nonpartisan. Once you’ve decided to plunge head-first into the world of digital activism, there are some things you can do to be more successful and to deal with the backlash. When dealing with trolls, make sure you have a self-care plan. For some people that means never responding to harassment. For some people that means turning off your cell phone, shutting your laptop, and unplugging for a long time. Harassment can cause anxiety for even the calmest people. Being a social-justice activist online can get scary, as Anita Sarkeesian could very well tell you. Just know you’re not alone – we’ve all responded to a troll we shouldn’t have responded to and got ourselves into a mess of anxiety.For success: use hashtags, find out what people are talking about, create images to go along with your digital activism. Keep going at it until people start to notice you. If you are passionate and consistent, you will be successful. Your audience will grow exponentially – it’ll seem extremely slow at first, but keep plugging away at it. Also, do your best to check your spelling and grammar – people hate sharing posts that contain errors.
Since this is my last post for ShoutOut! (because graduation is a thing), I will definitely be taking advice from these super-cool feminists in my own online activist pursuits. Thank you to Erin, Melissa, and Ponta, and I hope this post helps anyone who is starting out!
I love you all, goodbye (for now), and see you on the internet,
MustBeAMermaid a.k.a. @lucypmink (Gasp! Secret identity revealed!)