Do’s And Dont’s For Interacting With Activists Online
Social media has opened up a whole new medium for activism. Many feminist, LGBTQ+, body positive, and even more activists have moved online, through blogging, Twitter and Instagram. This has opened them up to much larger audiences across the globe, but also often forced them to face harsh blowback and criticism for those opposed to their various causes. If you follow or support any educators or activists for the causes you’re passionate about, it’s important to be vocal and informed about how you support them. Liking and engaging with their content is great, but if you want to go one step further, take a look at this handy list of suggestions for how to engage with online activists in a healthy and rewarding way for the both of you.
Do not - I repeat do *not* - ask a question that you could easily find the answer to on Google.
Even an apparently simple Instagram post will likely have had hours of (potentially unpaid) work put in from the creator. They have sourced the information, packaged it together into an aesthetic and understandable format, and served it up for free to their followers. To help them out, take a moment to think before asking a question that they may well have either answered in a previous post or otherwise which might be easy to find the answer to yourself. Remember: they are not there to be at the beck and call of their followers purely because they are successful or popular. They do not owe their audience a thing, at the end of the day. It can be exhausting and deplete their emotional energy to have to repeat answers over and over again.
If you have the knowledge, answer questions in their comments yourself.
One way to help combat this problem still further is to try and help out with answers to questions yourself. Always be sure to enter the conversation respectfully and not in a patronising way, and back up your information with sources if you can. Helping pad out the dialogue in comment sections is not only a great way of educating audiences, but also helps to improve social engagement ratings for the creator.
Try to comment something related to their post.
When engaging with their content, try to comment something related to their post. Speaking as someone who often puts content out into the world, a comment directly related to what I’m talking about is worth ten random comments about my hair or something irrelevant. Showing that you have engaged and enjoyed this particular piece of content will really make the creator feel valued. No matter how big an audience they might have, your comment will likely still be seen and appreciated.
If you see hate about a particular activist, report it but don’t bring it directly to their attention.
Creators often experience a lot of negativity, hate, and trolling from working online. If you see someone posting unnecessary and hateful feedback, either on the creator’s own page or elsewhere, certainly report it if it breaches that platform’s community guidelines or content rules. However, don’t feel the need to tag the creator or alert them to it. Either they will already have seen it or they won’t want to see it. Constructive criticism is often welcomed, but hate is damaging to their mental health and their content creation. Try and help them to steer clear where possible.
Keep personal opinions about their lifestyle to yourself.
Some activists share elements of their life online, either simply for fun or to support their content. It’s important to remember that this snapshot is only a brief snapshot into their lives. Avoid making observations or critiques, especially around extremely personal issues, like family, health, or relationships. It’s not your place and you most likely won’t have the full picture. Although you might feel like know them well from interacting with their content, you are not a full part of their life in the same way you are with your own friends and family. Make sure your comments reflect that.
Quite simply, if you love their content, share it around!
A quick and easy way of supporting is to share their content on your own channels. Some activists can find themselves stuck creating for the same circles of people. By sharing, you help more people outside of their standard audience see their work. Share it around, include a tag and a comment from yourself, and help their followers and reach grow!
Listen to what they ask from their audience.
Some activists will have their own lists just like this one of behaviour they would like to see from their audiences. Have a look through and see if you don’t quite match up to what they prefer. After all, their platforms are like their online homes. Respect the house rules, just like you wouldn’t run through someone else’s house with muddy shoes in real life.
In paying attention to even a few of these ideas, you could help make your favourite online activist’s life far easier. In helping them feel more comfortable and respected on their platforms, you are also helping yourself and the rest of their audience, as they are far more likely to carry on creating content for longer. So keep engaging, sharing, and enjoying!