On Wednesday, 77-year-old House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi walked onto the House floor in 4-inch heels to deliver what would become the longest-recorded speech to have been delivered in the House of Representatives. She spoke on behalf of the Dreamers, undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who are protected under the DACA program. Reading personal letters from them and proving that she will fight for their rights until the very end, she easily made headlines.
But Pelosi didn’t speak for eight hours straight, standing unwaveringly in undeniably painful conditions without a break, to make the news. No — she and other activists go out of their way to fight injustice no matter the circumstances. They stand up to show us that we, the public, must, too.
With information constantly at our fingertips and social-media use becoming increasingly significant in everyday life, a dangerous form of activism in which retweets, shares, and likes offer people the satisfaction needed to “leave it at that” has emerged. Passive activism, nicknamed “hashtag activism,” is a persistent problem in the U.S. and must be stunted before it becomes all we know.
Over the course of the past few years, slack activism has brought us Kony 2012, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, an influx of terrorism-related profile picture borders, and much more. To be brutally honest, these online challenges and calls to nonaction achieved close to nothing. Viewing the Kony 2012 video led to the campaign’s supposed success, not the amount of donations received to assist the rescue of the abducted children. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge offered a fun activity to do on a hot summer day but led to little to no education about what ALS actually is. The Facebook profile picture borders to reflect sympathy toward the most recent terrorist attacks were a nice touch but had no effect on helping the people who were terrorized.
Recently, #SaveNetNeutrality trended on Twitter, and people took to their social-media platforms and angrily tweeted at the FCC to not kill net neutrality. But it did anyways.
Passive activism is not effective on its own. It should be used as a tool to propel other forms of more effective activism toward success. The #MeToo trend is a perfect example of how passive hashtag activism can be a vessel used to reach triumph. Though it started out as a hashtag campaign to let sexual-harassment and assault victims know they are not alone, it has grown into one of the most revealing and effective campaigns in modern history, exposing nearly 100 powerful perpetrators of sexual harassment and assault, many of whom might have never been exposed had it not been for #MeToo.
The difference between the #MeToo campaign and other originally passive campaigns, however, is found in how it progressed. After gaining public attention, the #MeToo campaign joined in tandem with the Women’s March movement and Hollywood’s “Time’s Up” movement. It has real people — people of all races, sexual orientations, and genders — speaking out on the issue, sharing their stories widespread. It opened up a conversation, leading to huge actions being taken for the cause. Hollywood moguls fell, distinguished politicians resigned, and many victims were given the justice they deserved.
History has proven that there will always be things worth fighting for and against. In order to succeed, however, it is going to take more than a few shares on Facebook, retweets on Twitter, or likes on Instagram. It’s time we take the lead of strong activists such as Pelosi and stand up for what we believe in as actively as we can.