Why I’m not an activist

Note: I wrote this little ramble back in July 2016 and didn’t think to post it until now. As you might have guessed, a lot has changed since then. Look for a post addressing that in the next week or two.

There are a lot of issues plaguing our world today. I see it all over my Twitter feed: people talking about whatever social issue they’re passionate about, whether they’re sharing news articles on a current relevant social issue or saying that members of the majority group (whether that’s male, straight, white, able-bodied…) should shut up and listen, or saying “if you’re X, you should Y”, or whatever else goes on in social justice Twitter.

Unfortunately, sometimes that discussion turns not just to yelling about these topics, they also turn into yelling about these topics into the echo chamber that is their followers. Let’s face it, we tend to follow people who are like us, and the same applies to other people choosing who to follow online. Since we tend to follow people who are like us, we tend to see updates and news articles that reaffirm our existing beliefs instead of challenging them and making us think in different ways. When our beliefs are affirmed more, then we continue to build our firm belief system, making us less open to new ideas.

See, I don’t like this yelling. Sure, I’m not an exception to surrounding myself to people who are like me, but I also don’t like people yelling and generalizing–about any topic, not just social justice. I have my reasons: I’ve found that it’s harder to reason with people who are only yelling their views instead of speaking softly and carrying a big stick. And to be honest, when people are yelling, you practically have to yell back in order to get your voice heard in the conversation. I don’t like to yell my thoughts and views. When everyone’s yelling, only the very loudest get heard.

I don’t want that. I don’t want to yell in order to be heard. I don’t want to throw out generalizations just because that’s the lowest common denominator. It’s not the discussion on these issues themselves that bug me, not in the slightest. Discussion and action lead to change, and I’m glad to listen to (and occasionally contribute to) constructive discussion. When the discussion becomes destructive, that’s when I exit. It’s the call-out and dogpiling culture that has made its way around some parts of the activist and social justice community. Things like “You have no place to discuss X” or “You’re not part of this group, so your voice doesn’t matter” have no place in a constructive discussion.

Hearing things like “Ugh, men” (or white people, or straight people, or…) also grates my nerves, and these are not uncommon occurrences in the social justice community when a member of some majority group says something racist or sexist or misogynistic. This bugs me for several reasons. People who pass as the target of the comment but are not members of that group become targets, even if the speaker doesn’t intend it.

A large source of my anxiety stems from what people think of me. On the Internet, this is more magnified than ever as every tweet and blog post and status update can elicit a reaction from someone else, positive or negative. And because of the way so-called activists pile upon others for accidentally saying one thing without thinking, that causes even more anxiety for me. I don’t want to be dogpiled on just because of one comment, even after apologizing and moving on. It doesn’t matter what you say; someone is always going to find it offensive of *-ist or problematic. I know that. I just don’t want to be a target even after moving on from that.

Yes, staying in a small bubble is bad for many reasons. But sometimes bursting that bubble causes more trouble than it’s worth.

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