Thanks to the interwebs, righteous indignation is apparently America’s new feel-good emotion.
We devote countless hours online looking for stories or memes so we can tell ourselves and those who agree with our perspectives how right we are and how wrong everyone else is.
We tweet, blog, post, email and so on as if that immediately imbues us with the powers of an activist on whatever subject catches our fancy for the day.
It is the perfect conduit to make us feel like we are accomplishing something, yet no actual work or effort beyond a few keystrokes is ever required. We have the wonderful opportunity to yell at everyone we can to “get out there and do something!” while doing virtually nothing ourselves.
It’s almost as pointless as closing your eyes and hoping your own internal thoughts can affect an outcome. While it might make you temporarily feel better, it accomplishes zilch. (Some refer to this act as “praying.”)
#bringbackourgirls is a perfect example.
April 14 was the day the 276 girls were abducted from a school in Nigeria, but most of us didn’t hear about it for at least two weeks.
We were too busy paying our taxes, watching CNN in their never-ending search for Malaysian plane wreckage, other networks in their coverage of the South Korean ferry disaster, debating the racism scale concerning Sterling and Bundy, revisiting forgotten thoughts about Monica Lewinsky and watching college kids play a drinking game where every time Fox says “Benghazi” they have to take a drink. Students are getting hammered nationwide on a daily basis.
‘HASHTAG ACTIVISM’ ACCOMPLISHES NOTHING
But suddenly, now that it has become trendy to do so, millions of Americans miraculously noticed the Nigerian tragedy, with everyone acting like their “hashtag activism” is going to actually accomplish something to help find the kidnapped girls.
And to make matters even superficially worse, a few are even insisting that if only Hillary Clinton had classified the Boko Haram religious nuts as “official terrorists” the kidnapping would have never occurred.
Yes, yes, let’s politicize everything possible in order to help achieve a personal agenda. To hell with the real issue.
Anyway, remember “Kony 2012”? Who could forget, right?
They never caught the guy. In fact, many speculate he died years ago, but they did raise over $30 million from well-intentioned folks like you and me, which was then used to make a pointless sequel. But people sure did feel good about supporting the “cause.”
And that is my point.
At least from an awareness angle, I happily admit such sanctimonious hedonism can play a role, especially if it helps prompt a positive change of some sort. But our shallow gestures offered on social media, while perhaps inspiring in some abstract, ethereal way, do no more to actually help lead to a resolution than turning our Bud Light labels in a particular direction before each snap.
Sure, it’s only weird if it doesn’t work, but it never, ever has any bearing on the actual outcome.
Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.