How many times over the last few months have you said or heard something like “without technology to keep us connected, lockdown would have been even worse”?
It’s difficult to imagine navigating lockdown without technology to keep us connected to family, friends and colleagues. Over the past few turbulent months, technology has not only been a means of communication, but a force for activism, engagement and change.
The video of George Floyd’s murder brought the reality of racism to our consciousness in a way many of us hadn’t experienced before. Did the footage kick-start a movement in the way an article might not have? This debate has been a part of the wider Black Lives Matter campaign.
Online activism allows citizens to come together at a time of crisis. Yes, we can sign petitions on change.org. We can e-mail politicians by using those helpful pre-written letters. We can follow more black and minority ethnic influencers on social media. We can learn and research and share. We can argue on Twitter about removing the statues of slave owners.
These are all powerful tools available to us which previous generations did not have. They’re great ways of supporting causes we care about without a huge outpouring of time, effort and money.
But it isn’t enough.
We know it isn’t enough because people are so desperate for change, so desperate to be heard, that they headed out onto the streets in the midst of a pandemic.
They raged against George Floyd’s murder and other brutal acts in protests across the world, thousands of people united in their fury. They raged in the streets that had literally been blown apart in Beirut by a devastating explosion. They raged in Belarus against a regime which declared an election victory, when citizens knew they had voted to be rid of their corruption.
The black squares and the petition signatures and follows on social media only take us so far. These are gestures to show the world we are listening, but what about when no one is watching? What do we do when issues fall off the front pages?
We have to go out to vote at election time. We have to go into our communities and call out injustice when we see it. We have to go into our schools, our police stations, our shops and our board rooms to challenge the status quo. We have to ask, “where are the black school governors?” We have to demand, “why are you treating this person in this way?”
In the online community, we have a voice. But it’s offline that the real work, the real change, happens.