Are we too #woke?

When was the last time you read a newspaper? And I mean, bought or picked one up at a café and read it cover to cover over breakfast or a cup of coffee? Not just flicking through to the gossip pages or turning it over for the overnight sport results. Front to back. It’s been a while, I’m imagining.

But how could have we avoided this with the explosion of handheld devices? We have apps for our news now, and cheap weekly subscriptions for digital issues. We can read forums and commentary within a few clicks, and nightly news bulletins are packaged up into bite-size segments for our own choosing.

I’ll just watch the bit about the guy riding an esky down the street, thanks. The Amazon’s burning? Huh?

And while we are bombarded with a never-ending news cycle (even more so than it used to be), we tend to read and absorb it all without stopping to consider sometimes. It’s the era of “fake news”, the terrifying term coined by that President we won’t name. It’s also an era of post-truth, whereby anything is argued to an inch of its life and anything could possibly be true, whether it be UN-grade issues or who really should have gone home on The Bachelor last night. 

Think about a time when you’ve been attracted to a post on social media based on the comments you’ve seen underneath. Often, that’s all we stop to read instead of the article link. Our news comes from Facebook comments and memes. We are visually notified of events via Instagram, with fake support thrown out and not acted upon. It’s become an exhausting way to receive news and information but one that isn’t going anywhere. Negative comments in a forum or on a social media platform don’t stop fires burning or Presidents being elected. Real action does, and not many people are willing to get up and honour their commentary.

 
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Psychological conditioning comes into play here, as we are drilled with information that is supposedly the truth, to form opinions that are “public” opinion. The issue of the burning of the Amazon is relevant to mention here. How many posts were put up by accounts you’re following to pray or share the “truth” about what’s going on there? I had vegan friends posting about how Brazil are farming the rainforest for cattle. Others were ranting about the worsening of climate change and how we will all surely die as the rainforest provides 20% of the Earth’s oxygen. (Scientists debunked this hyperbolic stat, or at least that we won’t be dying anytime soon.) Mostly all added the hashtag #PrayForTheAmazon. Because typing that will help.

On the flip side, the quick fire spread (pardon the pun) of the Amazon fires has generated floods of donations to Amazon-related charities and advocacy groups. Not being able to help directly at the site means some people find themselves compelled to donate cash. But where will that money go? It may well be used to buy flights for those corporations’ employees and volunteers to merely reach the site, or balance overheads. It’s often a donor’s selfish peace of mind to be a part of something important.

Awareness is one thing—getting the information out there about an important cause. But are we using social media to present an image that we’re actually helping a cause when we are really binging Netflix Originals straight after? Our trips to the shop in our gas guzzling 4WDs to buy chocolate (another endangered industry that comes and goes on the advocacy bandwagon) are fine; but blasting an international government about something that they have been doing for decades from our insignificant apartment in Melbourne will apparently help.

Algorithms hand us content that we are made to think we need, consciously or not.

It’s so difficult to refute a lot of things we see on social media as they are presented to us so personally. ‘Things You May Like’ or ‘Suggested For You’ algorithms hand us content that we are made to think we need, consciously or not. And why wouldn’t we believe it? So many controversial events have occurred in recent years that the crazy and chaotic are seemingly normal. We never thought a Playboy-seducing-billionaire airhead would be President and that came to fruition. We thought the European Union was pretty sweetly united, yet it’s getting more and more broken apart.

 
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Of course, social media’s inherent purpose is to be social, and we touched on social media activism in our previous blog post. Arguing about reality TV or the government’s new policy on social media is harmless but acting #woke and not doing anything about it despite your #ActNow hashtags or calls for action are rather pointless.

It would be exponentially better for everyone—even the planet— if we all channelled our energy into focusing on causes that we are actually passionate about. Ones that we can actively pursue locally in the community: avoid using plastic, advocate for women’s safety or volunteer for a charity. Everyone will have their personal missions which could mould together for joint change. We can collectively make more positive, productive change when we do something we can actually DO. How many people will buy plane tickets to Rio to save the Amazon?

Spread awareness? Go ahead.

Caption your Instagram posts with the need to do something about a cause or disaster from your living room on the other side of the world, while you work full-time and balance your life? Hmm.