Recently a friend made a comment about all the advocacy tweets, posts, pictures, etc. on social media. She was annoyed and tired of it, and trying to figure out how to block it all. As I was chatting with her about the different forms advocacy took, she also wondered aloud what the purpose was of people who do nothing but post online. This got me to wondering also. I can’t march in demonstrations, or run for the cause, or travel oversees to feed starving children, but I am able to write letters to my representatives and I’ve become somewhat savvy in using social media to raise awareness and educate others.
So what influence does social media have? If you google anything to do with “advocacy” and “social media” you will find over 21 million results about organizations requesting social-advocates and how to be a social media advocate. With that much information available, surely advocating via social media is valuable. I found almost nothing showing hard statistics about the influence of social media. What I did find was that both businesses and politicians are watching what topics are trending. There were also numerous testimonies of charities receiving funding, laws being changed, increased awareness, and growing discussion about problems and how to change the status quo. In my opinion those are all good things.
Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day. ~~Thomas Jefferson
Obviously Jefferson was a being very optimistic, but enlightenment is the first step. Everyone is aware that social media shares a lot of useful information as well as a lot of mis-information and hoaxes. However, when the audience sees information repeatedly about issues, it encourages them to ask questions and do additional research. This is the beginning of awareness and further education. Sadly there are so many ills in society today that no one can do everything or advocate for every cause that touches the heart. But I believe that if we each focus on the few concerns that most affect our lives, that matter most to us, and do whatever little or much as we are able, then collectively we will all make a positive impact on life on earth.
Although I would love to adopt every homeless pet, feed every hungry child, donate money to find cures for every disease, and clean every beach, I know for me those ideals are impossible. I have had to think through what is most important to me, and how my limited resources can best be applied. After doing that, I have decided to focus of four causes that I can raise awareness about.
Human-trafficking: It makes me irate to know that this not only still exists today, but that it is the second most prevalent global crime after drugs. My seventeenth summer, hoping one day to become an attorney, I sat through the Ellebracht slave-ranch trial. The testimonies and evidence I witnessed there affected my core. Since then I have researched slavery since biblical times. As King Solomon said, “There is nothing new under the sun,” but that certainly doesn’t make it right. Slavery is not relegated to history, ethnicity, or gender. It is alive and well today, and it must be stopped. I applaud many organizations working to raise awareness, stop trafficking, free those enslaved, and punish traffickers including law enforcement, The Polaris Project, and the enditmovement.
- Invisible Disabilities: Most disabilities and illnesses have obvious signs and symptoms, and therefore the general public sees something is amiss and affords those sufferers a bit more grace and understanding. Unfortunately just as many disabilities and illnesses have no outward signs or symptoms, and those sufferers are misunderstood, abused, and discriminated against. Consider neurological disorders, mental illnesses, and others. Advocacy brings awareness, compassion, and resources to help sufferers be more successful in their daily lives and enable doctors to improve treatment and research. In addition to this I also include education regarding service dogs.
- Religious Freedom: I firmly believe every person should have the right to worship in freedom and safety. I am a Christian who believes the Bible, and I can also respect the rights of others who believe differently. It breaks my heart to hear of Christians and Jews who are being persecuted for their beliefs. If you think this loss of freedom doesn’t affect you, you don’t know history or current events. I challenge you to conduct your own research. Here are some starting points– International Religious Freedom Report, Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion, Open Doors USA, and Baptist World Alliance.
- Literacy: Research overwhelmingly shows that increased literacy improves lives. Nations with the highest rate of literacy have increased health and well-being, lower infant mortality, longer life spans, etc. Additionally, more and more research is showing that reading stories builds empathy and lowers crime. In prisons where inmates participate in literacy programs, recidivism is decreased. Reading, writing, and teaching others to do the same will empower people to improve their own lives and the lives of others. You can help today by reading with a child or donating books to a library. Great organizations include Reading is Fundamental, and ProLiteracy.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ~~ Edmund Burke
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” ~~ Margaret Mead