Blog Post

The Pains of Making Social Media Woke

The Pains of Making Social Media Woke

     In the last year, social justice activism on social media platforms has exploded. This activism is obviously largely in response to the rise of competing anti-establishment wings in the political sphere and the highly publicized gratuitous deaths of black people. Currently popular “woke” hashtags like #NoBanNoWall and #MuslimBan are being circulated by primarily people of color on social media. Lisa Nakamura provides an interesting neo-Marxist lens of evaluating this phenomenon and the toll it places on women of color in, “The Unwanted Labour Of Social Media: Women Of Colour Call Out Culture As Venture Community Management.” They argue that financially unpaid female labor drives social media activism and is driven by affective investments in the issues at hand.

     Based off my social media circles, it appears that people of color (although not disproportionately women of color), on average, are more likely to be socially active on social media regarding issues of race and international intervention. While it is true that those friends of mine tend to be well-engaged affectively into those issues, they are often emotionally drained by the degrading comments and responses they receive for their financially uncompensated labor. For example, some of my friends have received threats (including death threats) for their activism on twitter. Even if threats on social media are not super credible, they are still worrying and take a lot out of a person. The negative affective energy that permeates discussions of social justice on social media do not appear to fully deter many people though. Many of my friends of color that are active on social media express communal reasons for engaging in this form of unpaid and draining labor. In other words, they are willing to handle the small emotional pains if it means they are able to contribute at least a little to transforming the world into a more socially just place for those around them and future generations.

     Lastly, on my timeline and twitterfeed, white people tend to be more socially active than people of color when it comes to the issue of climate change. Even though climate change will and does affect predominantly poor and non-white communities disproportionately, it is treated as a colorblind problem in national media discourses. If it is true that white people tend to be more active about climate change than people of color (maybe because people of color would like to spend their affective energies on issues more directly tied to race?), then how would that complicate Nakamura’s analysis?

Here is a related read on social media and LGBTQ issues: http://www.salzburg.umd.edu/unesco/social-media-and-lgbt-community

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2 comments

I thought it was a strong case that you tied this issue back to the Nakamura article as well as your own personal news feed. All of this information goes to defy the "digital labor" stigmas that Nakamura touches on, which is supposedly associated with high paid white workers. 

The question you pose at the end is a great one! I will think about it more and hopefully respond after class =)

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I really liked this blog post, the comment that white people tend to be more socially active about climate change than people of color is something that I had never thought about before, but it immediately stood out to me as being true. What are some other possible reasons for this? 

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