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Digital Activism 101: A Guide to Showing Up, Speaking Out, and Connecting on Twitter and Facebook


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Digital Activism 101 zooms in on two essential tools--Twitter and Facebook. Each section provides questions to help longtime activists and relative newcomers decide where, when, and how to focus their digital activism efforts plus ProTips to enhance effectiveness without doing damage to body, mind, and spirit. Guide created by Meredith Gould (@meredithgould): sociologist, digital communications consultant, online community manager.

Published in: Social Media

Digital Activism 101: A Guide to Showing Up, Speaking Out, and Connecting on Twitter and Facebook

  1. 1. Digital Activism 101 A Guide to Showing Up, Speaking Out, and Connecting on Twitter and Facebook Without Undermining Yourself or Your Cause Created by: Meredith Gould (@meredithgould) Introduction Right now, longtime activists as well as those who are relatively new to this privilege of democracy are being extraordinarily challenged. We’re being challenged to rethink and rebuild coalitions, especially among targeted groups; across generations and even across party lines. We’re being challenged to rethink strategies and tactics for effective dissent, persuasive protest, and sustainable movements for radical change. Good news: we now have powerful social networking tools. Digital activism has become a thing! But doing it effectively involves knowing much more than how to post a video, create a meme, or getting a hashtag to trend. At the end of the 1960s, “the personal is political” was a rallying cry for 2nd wave feminists and student activists. Today, the political has become intensely personal thanks, in part, to social media. This mixed blessing of social media underscores the importance of knowing how to use it wisely and well. In this guide, Digital Activism 101, I zoom in on two essential tools—Twitter and Facebook. Twitter delivers real-time news and facilitates rapid response in short, ~ 140-character communications (aka, tweets). Facebook supports slower responses and lengthier observations (aka, posts). Which should you use? In each section, I provide questions to help you decide where, when, and how to focus your digital activism plus ProTips to enhance your effectiveness without doing damage to body, mind, and spirit. Sections:  Focus: Your Temperament and Personality  Focus: Your Call to Digital Activism  Focus: Your Social Media Presence  Focus: Special Situations  Moving Forward Show Up. Speak Out. Connect.
  2. 2. ________________________________________________________________ Page 2 of 10 © 2017 Meredith Gould | Please Share With Attribution Focus: Your Temperament and Personality Social media allows people to deliver opinions swiftly – with varying degrees of clarity and civility. And let’s get real, shall we? Not everyone has the psychological wherewithal to deal with a barrage of input, especially when it’s combative, negative or mean-spirited.  Use this section to: 1) Contemplate how social media aligns (or doesn’t) with your temperament and personality. 2) Learn how to mitigate and manage social media-induced stress. For Consideration and Contemplation Are you:  more of an extrovert or introvert? (Note: Introverts tend to do better on social media because it allows them (us!) to better manage amount and duration of interaction.)  energized by being on the frontlines or more comfortable supporting those who are? Are you emotionally equipped to deal with:  aggravation and frustration?  apprehension, anxiety, fear? Are you psychologically equipped to handle:  triggers for abuse, assault, and neglect?  attacks on personality and/or professional competency?  challenges to commitment, faith, values? Still want to participate in digital activism? Great! And…you’ll need to cultivate conscious awareness of your well-being and know when to take a break—or opt-out altogether. ProTips for Managing Social Media-Induced Stress Self-care for Body, Mind, and Spirit  Establish a time (or times) to log online daily or weekly.  Determine a timeframe for how long to stay on Twitter and/or Facebook during your online session.  Create a “To Do” list for what you intend to do while online, then log off when you’ve completed your tasks.  Set a timer or use a browser extension to stay out of digital rabbit holes:   For Facebook: Todobook  
  3. 3. ________________________________________________________________ Page 3 of 10 © 2017 Meredith Gould | Please Share With Attribution  Explore options for tools that temporarily block online distractions:  “10 Online Tools for Better Attention & Focus”  Explore options for online tools to manage what you see on Twitter and Facebook:  For Facebook:  For Twitter:  Plan daily breaks of at least 20-30 minutes to do something restorative—not online.  Observe at least one day of Sabbath rest from digital engagement during the week. Self-care for body:  Stay hydrated.  “No, you don’t need eight glasses of water day”  Rest your eyes for at least 5 minutes after looking at monitors/screens for more than 20 minutes.  Invest in glasses specifically for computer use, glare reduction filters, and perhaps a new monitor.  “Computer Eye Strain: 10 Steps for Relief”  Consider using voice recognition software (e.g., Dragon Naturally Speaking) to reduce stress on fingers, hands, and wrists.  Build in regular exercise and encounters with fresh air. Self-care for mind and spirit:  Review and revise Privacy and Safety/Security settings on Twitter and Facebook.  On Twitter: Learn the difference between muting and blocking—and do either or both:  Muting:  Blocking: and  On Facebook: Learn the difference between unfollowing, blocking, and restricting—and do any or all:  “How to Block Someone on Facebook”  “How do I follow or unfollow a profile or Page?”  On Facebook: Give yourself permission to leave online conversations or to shut-down/delete posts after trying any or all of the following:  Clarifying your rules of engagement: “Please feel free to post non- partisan resources. Anything else will be removed.”  Providing a warning in public or via the back channel: “I’m not comfortable with tone of comments here. Let’s restore this conversation to civility.”  Taking it offline: “Let’s continue this conversation either by email or phone. Which would you prefer?”
  4. 4. ________________________________________________________________ Page 4 of 10 © 2017 Meredith Gould | Please Share With Attribution  Resist every temptation to get sucked into an online debate/shouting match with Internet trolls. (Note: Not everyone who disagrees with you is a troll, it’s a matter of tone and style.)  “10 Types of Internet Trolls You’ll Meet Online”  Report online hate speech or other forms of abuse:  For Twitter: “An Update on Safety”  For Facebook: “Reporting Abuse”  Find and follow a few Twitter accounts and Facebook pages for comic relief or encounters with beauty.  If you’re active on social media, let friends/followers know if/when you plan to sign off for an extended period of time.  Seek help from a licensed therapist if digital activism is generating anger, anxiety, depression, fear, or despair.  Meet with a spiritual director if digital activism is challenging your faith or sense of purpose (aka, vocation, call).  Create a support team of trusted friends who know your intentions and goals for digital activism. Ask them to provide loving care if they see you becoming or being:  angry  mean-spirited  argumentative  obstructionistic  arrogant  privileged  dismissive  rude  hostile  trivializing  hypersensitive  unapproachable And to provide affirmation and encouragement when they see you being:  available  kind  caring  knowledgeable  comforting  open  compassionate  resourceful  encouraging  sympathetic  generous  trustworthy
  5. 5. ________________________________________________________________ Page 5 of 10 © 2017 Meredith Gould | Please Share With Attribution Focus: Your Call to Digital Activism Anyone with a smartphone, never mind a tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, can participate in social and political causes. Once again, let’s get real. Not everyone is willing or physically able to attend marches, participate in door-to-door voter registration, or stand witness in public places, etc. Nor is everyone qualified to provide pro bono legal or medical assistance.  Use this section to: 1) Contemplate your goals, passions, and areas of expertise. 2) Learn ProTips to establish expertise and credibility. For Consideration and Contemplation Goals for Digital Activism To what extent are you participating to do any—or all?—of these things:  Share information and/or resources (i.e., content curation).  Have conversations about news and issues.  Discover and build community among like-minded/hearted people.  Organize and/or promote action (e.g., marches, petition signing, calling Congress).  Provide support, comfort, and care to distressed people.  Express anger, disappointment, frustration.  Gain recognition for your leadership.  Seek acknowledgement for your expertise. Passions and Areas of Expertise  What are your top three areas of expertise?  How are you qualified to claim expertise in your top areas?  What are your top three areas of social/political concern?  What’s your #1 passion relative to social/political activism? How about #2?  How do people on social media perceive your identification or involvement with a social group/political party? Time Availability  Will digital activism be an add-on to other responsibilities or become a significant part of your work?  How much time each day or week can you realistically devote to digital activism? Clear about your call to participate in digital activism? Great! And…you’ll need to establish your expertise plus maintain your credibility.
  6. 6. ________________________________________________________________ Page 6 of 10 © 2017 Meredith Gould | Please Share With Attribution ProTips for Establishing Expertise and Credibility  Limit your areas of focus – and stay focused on them.  Retweet and share content from credible sources. How do you know they’re credible? See who they follow and who follows them. Review their timeline content.  Retweet and share credible content. When in doubt, check:  Snopes:  Follow on Twitter: @factcheckarmy  “Get Your Facts Right—6 Fact Checking Websites That Help You Know the Truth”  Before retweeting (Twitter) or sharing (Facebook):  Click through to open links.  Read content (e.g., reportage, commentary).  Ask yourself:  Does this need to be RT’d/shared yet again?  Does this need to be RT’d/shared by me?  Does this need to be RT’d/shared right now?  On Twitter: Add commentary to help followers understand why you’re retweeting something by using the “Quote Tweet” function.  On Facebook: Add commentary to help friends understand why you’re sharing something by completing “Say something about this…”  On Twitter: Apply for a (blue badge) verified account:    Revise social media bios to include “activist,” if that’s a key feature of your online identity.  Participate in Tweetchats and Facebook Live events/conversations in your areas of interest and expertise.  Twitter Chat Schedule (from Travel much? Know folks who do? Checkout this info from @ACLU
  7. 7. ________________________________________________________________ Page 7 of 10 © 2017 Meredith Gould | Please Share With Attribution Focus: Your Social Media Presence Doesn’t matter if you’re relatively new to social media or an experienced user, I urge you to periodically review and assess your presence on Twitter and Facebook.  Use this section to: 1) Contemplate your social media audience. 2) Learn ProTips for reaching your intended audience and social media etiquette. For Consideration and Contemplation About Your Social Media Audience (Friends/Followers)  With which people and organizations do you typically engage?  To what extent can the people who follow you affect your future (e.g., career path)?  Which people and organizations typically reach out to you?  What percentage of your current audience shares your activism goals and perspectives?  What percentage of your audience will be upset/offended by your activism?  How will you know if it’s time to reach out to a new and perhaps different group of people? About Your Communication Style and Preferences  Are you willing and able to articulate your point(s) within the ~140 character limit established by Twitter?  Are you more inclined to write in paragraphs rather than short sentences?  Do you prefer being able to follow a conversation thread or can you follow what may seem to be disconnect comments?  Do you want to engage in conversations or want to focus on providing content/resources?  Do you prefer focusing on one topic/ conversation at a time or can you conceptually multitask?  Is your online experience significantly enhanced by seeing and/or sharing visual content? Ready to build or rebuild your presence on Twitter and/or Facebook? Great! And…you’ll need to learn how these platforms work and how to adjust to changes in their functionality.
  8. 8. ________________________________________________________________ Page 8 of 10 © 2017 Meredith Gould | Please Share With Attribution ProTips for Reaching Your Intended Audience  Twitter:  Plug keywords (e.g., environment, immigration, women’s rights) or recognized hashtags (e.g., #resist, #DACA, #ScienceMarch) into Twitter’s search function to find people.  Use lists—creating ones to organize followers into categories and following existing ones:  Discover and use recognized hashtags.  Facebook:  Find groups of like-minded/hearted people.  For more privacy, join a “Closed” group.  For optimal privacy, join a “Secret” group.  Use lists to organize friends into categories:  ProTips for Social Media Etiquette  Use H/T (hat tip) to acknowledge others, especially when RT’ng their content.  On Facebook: check with people before tagging them in posts.  On Twitter: for replies remove @name of anyone no longer part of a conversation.  Use the “back channel” to call out and explore what might seem like an appropriate online behavior.  Twitter: Direct Message (DM)  Facebook: Private Message  Email  Phone (Yes, the phone!)  On Twitter: Alert followers to impending Tweet chat participation, Tweet storms, or other activities that will clog their Twitter streams.  On Twitter: Limit hashtags (#) to no more than three per tweet.  Publicly thank people who inspire your activism and organizations that support civil rights and liberties.
  9. 9. ________________________________________________________________ Page 9 of 10 © 2017 Meredith Gould | Please Share With Attribution Focus: Special Situations Worlds can, do, and will collide online. Social media has now been around long enough for organizations, professional associations, and companies to create guidelines for social media use by employees and members. Seek, find, and study them! ProTips for Government Workers and Public Officials  Know your rights under the First Amendment to the US Constitution and the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act:  “Federal Employees Guide to Sharing Key Information with the Public” ProTips for Clergy and Workers in Faith/Mission-Based Organizations  Know your denominational guidelines regarding public participation in or advocacy of social and/or political activism.  Learn about and become willing to accept the consequences of going rogue. ProTips for Licensed Professionals (e.g., attorneys, physicians, social workers, therapists)  Know your licensing/accreditation body’s rules and regulations for public participation in or advocacy of social and/or political activism.  Know your institution’s and practice management’s expectations about public participation in or advocacy of social and/or political activism.  Learn about and become willing to accept the consequences of going rogue. ProTips for Union Members and Labor Organizers  Learn about organized labor’s historical stance toward and role in political activism.  Savvy Troublemaking: Politics for New Labor Activists (SOLIDARITY Pamphlet)  Know your union’s position and expectations about public participation in or advocacy of social and/or political activism.  Know what “concerted activity” is protected by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  NLRB “Rights We Protect”  Employees Engaging in Political Activism—Employer Guidelines from American Society of Employers (ASE)  Learn about and becoming willing to accept the consequences of going rogue. ProTips for Educators and Students  Find out legal implications of using an .edu email account for social and/or political activism.
  10. 10. ________________________________________________________________ Page 10 of 10 © 2017 Meredith Gould | Please Share With Attribution Moving Forward Powerful contributions can come from individuals but social and political change is always a group effort. These days, people meet online and form groups, some of which evolve into communities without anyone ever meeting face-to-face. At least not immediately. In reality, those of us with longtime experience have observed—and experienced—with great delight how often online interactions morph into deeply enriching relationships, personal as well as professional. And, political. Social media has become a valuable way to supplement, not necessarily replace, interpersonal and group engagement. Thanks to social networking platforms, you can participate in your local community as well as national actions. Learning how to use social media at its and to your best advantage makes support and encouragement as likely to come from your neighbor as it is from someone living thousands of miles away. How will you move forward? Notes: Meredith Gould, PhD is a sociologist, digital communications consultant, longtime spiritual seeker, and gadfly who participated in several social movements during the 1970s and 1980s. She’s an award- winning author of eleven books including Desperately Seeking Spirituality: A Field Guide to Practice and The Social Media Gospel. A Platinum Fellow of Mayo Clinic’s Social Media Health Network, Meredith is internationally known for her passionate advocacy of using digital tools for social change and to enhance quality of life in body, mind, and spirit. For more information, visit: