World Environment Day: The need for real change in the age of keyboard warriors and hashtag activism

While I am an advocate of the many benefits of online activism, in this piece, I am questioning my own thoughts. Previously, whichever cause we supported with our hearts defined our character. Now, the number of characters we use defines our post. I was not intending a mere play of words here, I wanted to draw your attention to this urban phenomenon that is killing our attitude toward philanthropy. I am asking the bigger question — is Facebook activism killing volunteerism?

Image from Pixabay

Image from Pixabay

We feel strongly about something, we take to Facebook to talk about it. We get angry, we just tweet it out. We want a gang of people who think like us? We form one through a Facebook group. We want to be popular, we get a hashtag to trend. We often get lost in the dissonance of our own echoes, which emerge from other’s tongues. It feels good to have like-minded voices around us. I am a great expert of social media and use it amply to amplify my presence as a human brand and also for my causes. However, I have a grouse – I hate it when social media doesn’t rise up to join conventional, old-school social work. Our energies erupt and deflate on social media itself. There are exceptions to this rule. There are many who take online activism to offline work  (the likes of  The Ugly Indian), but I am here to focus on those who use social media for chest thumping and to spread vitriol, and don’t use the same energy for impacting change.

Like, for instance, today is World Environment Day. My Facebook and Twitter timelines are overflowing with love for Mother Earth and the environment. One would imagine that we have a lot of respect for the environment. The truth is that none of these individuals, many of whom are in Mumbai, would stand with those who are protesting the felling of age-old trees in Colaba. Many of them feel that it is just the job of a few activists to stand up against tree felling and habitat destruction, but not their space to stand with the trees and complete habitats that get wiped off.  Not many would want to dirty their perfectly manicured fingers with the touch of sand. Hence it is not surprising that “Why don’t you plant a sapling instead?” is met with a “I am busy now, some other month”.

How many of them really worry about their carbon footprint and choose to take a bus or train rather than their own cars? How many of them choose an Ola share or Uber pool instead of a solo ride? How many of them would choose to not consume factory-farmed animals and stick to only free-farm animals for meat? How many of them would ensure that they provide water for birds and animals to drink, not use pesticides that add to pollution levels, or stand up against wild animal joy rides and acts in not just our social circles, but also our religious spaces, like elephants in the Guruvayur elephant camp sanctuary?  I mean, not everyday. Maybe, just for one day. Maybe, at the least, just for this day – World Environment Day.

While the world is poaching, climate change is fast-approaching. While the ozone layer is depleting and wildlife numbers are decreasing, we are busy and dizzy — lost in the play of linguistics that is the wonder of the written word on social media. Only if we, the keyboard warriors also knew, that posting and hash-tagging is important, but it is only a catalyst to change. Real change is brought about on ground. Sometimes a little dirt, a little push, and hands soiled in mother earth can make a world of a difference.

On that note, please bless me.  Please bless this post — I dare you. Please do what you do best — like, comment, and share.


Published Date: Jun 05, 2017 08:35 pm | Updated Date: Jun 05, 2017 08:35 pm



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