The power of ‘clicktivism’ in the fight for LGBT+ equality

by Edafe Okporo | Blogger
Friday, 11 January 2019 11:46 GMT

2018 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals - Radio City Music Hall, New York, U.S., August 20, 2018. - Kevin Hart. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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Social media can be harnessed to power change and to help people come together and find their voices

Edafe Okporo is a writer and activist based in New York

Have you ever read something online, clicked on it and then been compelled to read further? Perhaps you have liked the post, commented – or even signed a petition.

Already you have been drawn in by the power of “clicktivism”.

In essence, it is about harnessing the power of social media. And for LGBT+ activists, it could prove a valuable route to equality.

Here’s a good example of how clicktivism can help to get things done.

Six years ago, a video about former Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony and his exploitation of child soldiers went viral, racking up more than 40m views. The film-maker hoped for 500,000 views, with the aim of funding a documentary. He eventually raised a reported $20m.

The initial YouTube video led to a conversation on the issue – and this is what is critical about clicktivism: it enables people to tell their stories and influence the opinions of others.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines clicktivism as, “The practice of supporting a political or social cause via the internet by means such as social media or online petitions, typically characterised as involving little effort or commitment.”

But is it a force for good or simply a way of disseminating views – both good and bad – online?

Clicktivism often earns a bad rap from critics. They say that after the share or donate button is pressed, the cause is forgotten and that's where the activism ends. That's true in some situations. But it’s not always the case.

One reason social media has so much power is that our online networks are typically made up of friends, family and people we respect.

And this is where LGBT+ groups have the power to act.

The premise behind clicktivism is that social media allows for quick and easy ways to support an organisation or cause.

When people see you act – or post something – it can change the way they see that issue and can lead to progressive political decision-making.  

The rise of technology has brought many threats – not least to people’s jobs. But it has also provided opportunities, particularly for young people on their own, who may be feeling isolated or suicidal. We can use this medium to improve the lives of others.

Clicktivism can also help discover the true nature of people – and their past.

Comedian and actor Kevin Hart was picked last year to host the 2019 Oscars ceremony. But then, as clicktivists went to work searching back through his previous social media posts, they discovered homophobic tweets from 10 years ago. As a result, he decided to step down from his presenting duties.

Last year’s Supreme Court ruling in favour of the right of a Colorado baker to refuse to bake a cake celebrating a same-sex wedding on religious grounds was a similar flashpoint. Many took to Twitter to register their disgust at the ruling.

“No business should be allowed to discriminate against any American based on who they are or who they love,” one tweet read.

“Let’s be clear: businesses do not have the right to discriminate against customers simply because of who they are or who they love,” another added.

In times of triumph – and turmoil – clicktivism offers an avenue for people to come together and find their voices. In the past, protesters took to the streets, placards in hand. Now the path to equality could be but a click away

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