Social Media and #MeToo

By: Matthew Medlin

Editor: Divya Thirunagari

#MeToo

With two simple words, Alyssa Milano started an avalanche of social activity. Within 24 hours, those words had been shared a half a million times.

The hashtag “Me Too” is intended to provide those who have been sexually assaulted with a method of speaking out, without having to go into explicit detail. Just looking through my feed on Facebook, I was immediately struck with just how many people have experienced something so horrific. As were all the articles I read about the movement. The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN…the list of news outlets goes on. Everyone was surprised, outraged and shocked.

On the one hand, this was phenomenal. People were given a way to speak out against the mind-blowingly awful atrocity that is sexual assault. Drawing attention to it could be a great way to galvanize people to act. And maybe others will begin to feel ever so slightly more comfortable with coming forward.

But with these good and powerful things in mind…there’s a problem. It’s not with the movement, the people, the message, or the cause itself. It’s the platform. See, social media is an insatiable beast.

It lives.

Breathes.

It reacts to the world around it, just like us. It constantly needs.

And we feed it. With our problems, with our triumphs, with our silly little videos…we consistently check in on it, make sure it’s ok, and give it some nourishment. And there’s always something that’s stirring up a viral storm. It could be a twitter tirade by Donald Trump. An outrage over a racist advertisement. Or even a shooting. Whatever it is, the process is always the same.

People get angry. They write comments on Facebook. Offer thoughts and prayers. Make touching statements. Come up with clever hashtags. They donate a couple bucks, smile and feel better about themselves. Just like that, the event that was so scary and dark and terrible and depressing and harrowing fades into the background, dwarfed by the sheer deluge of information constantly spinning off our social feeds into our eyeballs.

But I’m going to burst a lot of bubbles here. That is NOT enough.

If we want change to happen, and I mean real change, it’s going to take a whole heck of a lot more work than just writing about your outrage from the safety and comfort of your laptop. Or sending thoughts and prayers. Or hoping for things to be different, forgetting about it and going back to curating your favorite Spotify playlist.

No.

There is a way to change things. More than anything else, change takes work. Not to mention compromise, because not everyone is going to agree. So, you need to get through to them.

It takes campaigning. Rallying in person. Starting petitions. Giving presentations. Talking it out peacefully, and starting a meaningful conversation that can benefit us all.

If we can manage to do that, then change will come. But until then, this critically important issue will fade out of the limelight. And we cannot let that keep happening.

Not this time. Not again.

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