“I don’t play videogames and generally think that online activism is a giant waste of time.”
Ryan Holiday, Author
Pros and Cons of Online Activism
Online activism (also sometimes referred to as digital activism or social media activism) is a form of activism that is carried out over digital media on the internet. Compared to conventional activism and demonstrations in person, online activism has some important advantages.
Yet, there are still some issues related to this concept. In this article, the pros and cons of online activism are examined.
Advantages of Online Activism
- Online activism is easy to coordinate
- You don’t have to register your demonstration and inform local authorities
- Overall level of freedom is higher with digital activism
- Especially important in countries where conventional activism is not allowed
- People can join digital activism from everywhere in the world
- Quite low barriers to entry
- Digital activism is quite convenient
- You can connect to many different people
- You can maximize the efficiency of your activism efforts
- Handicapped persons can join easier
- Better chance to join for elderly persons
- People can stay in contact with each other through online communities
- We can spread our ideas through social media
- Technology allows us to make video calls for free
- You can protect yourself against physical dangers
- Fundraising for online activism is easier
- Your ideas can go viral
Online activism is easy to coordinate
One important advantage of online activism is that it is quite easy to coordinate. You can arrange and coordinate your actions with your peers through social media groups and forums. In turn, you can plan everything way ahead and can make your actions as efficient as possible.
In contrast, it would be much harder to coordinate demonstrations that actually take place in person since people often get out of control and the overall efficiency may be far lower. Hence, online activism can be an efficient tool to express your opinion and to coordinate group actions.
You don’t have to register your demonstration and inform local authorities
If you want to organize demonstrations that take place in a physical manner, you will have to inform local authorities and get permission for your demonstrations in many countries all over the world. This can be quite annoying and also time-consuming, especially if you have to get different permissions for a single demonstration.
Consequently, in order to save you time and nerves, organizing online activism activities may be a much better idea since you will not have to inform your local authorities and nobody can actually forbid you to engage in digital activism.
Overall level of freedom is higher with digital activism
Another benefit of online activism is that also your overall level of freedom will be much higher compared to demonstrations that are done in person. For instance, conventional demonstrations are often abolished by the police due to various reasons.
However, it is much harder to stop digital activism and there will be no authorities that could abolish your online activism actions, at least if you obey the law and the regulations of social media services.
Especially important in countries where conventional activism is not allowed
Digital activism is also extremely important in countries where activism in person is not allowed. In fact, in some countries, you will be fined or even sentenced to jail if you demonstrate against the government.
Hence, in such countries, social media activism is extremely important since it will be one of the only ways to achieve political change and to assure a brighter future for future generations.
People can join digital activism from everywhere in the world
Another upside of digital activism is that people from all over the world can join those movements. In fact, many people are not yet aware of the power of the internet. Social media networks, forums and other online platforms give us the chance to share our ideas with other people and to work together in order to achieve our global political goals.
Online activism also allows us to work with people across country borders. This also means that people from all over the world can support your activism efforts and can share your ideas. In turn, the overall global awareness can be raised on serious problems and the pressure on politicians to find solutions to those problems can be increased.
Quite low barriers to entry
Online activism is also quite popular since there is also a rather low barrier to entry. While organizing demonstrations at a physical location implies significant efforts and also some knowledge regarding rules and regulations related to those demonstrations, it is enough for online activism to have a mobile device or a laptop with a proper internet connection.
In fact, as long as you have a device that you can connect to the internet, you will be able to join digital activism in many different ways. Since almost everyone has internet access right now, the barrier to entry regarding online activism is quite low and this makes digital activism quite attractive to many people from all over the world.
Digital activism is quite convenient
Online activism is also quite convenient. Instead of joining demonstrations in person, you do no longer have to travel for long distances but can just lie on your couch and do your activism work online. This can save you plenty of time and also money since you will not have to spend any money on fuel for your car or for public transport.
Moreover, you don’t have to care about what you are wearing. In fact, you can even sit in front of your computer in your pajama and share your ideas via social media. Thus, online activism can be considered as much more convenient compared to in-person activism.
You can connect to many different people
In general, if you join online activists, you can connect to many different people in a rather short period of time. This not only includes people from your local region, it also includes people from all over the world who share the same interests and political attitudes as you.
Over time, you may also be able to make really good friends with those people and may even visit them in their home countries on your next travels in the future.
Therefore, online activism is more than just a tool. It can also be a great personal experience from which you can learn and progress.
You can maximize the efficiency of your activism efforts
Also the overall level of efficiency of online activism is often much higher compared to demonstrations in person. If you share your ideas on the internet, you can reach many more people if you do it right. Moreover, you can also share supplementary materials in a rather easy manner and can also cite your sources to increase the trust of people regarding your arguments.
You can also tag other people or even celebrities who may share similar political attitudes and those celebrities may support your ideas. In general, through social media activism, you can use your time as efficiently as possible since you can avoid all the organizational work and can focus on the things that really matter to you.
Handicapped persons can join easier
Another chance of online activism is that it makes it quite easy for handicapped persons to join. In fact, if you suffer from a physical disability, you will often not be able to join a demonstration in person due to your physical condition.
However, through digital activism, everyone is equal and also handicapped persons can join social media groups or forums quite easily as long as they are able to operate a computer.
Therefore, digital activism can also be a great tool for handicapped persons to express their political attitudes.
Better chance to join for elderly persons
Digital activism is not only great for disabled persons, it can also be a great help for elderly persons who no longer have the ability to leave their home due to physical issues. Those older people can just use their computer and join online activism groups and are ready to go.
Hence, online activism also makes it possible for the older generation to join political discussions and to state their attitude towards certain issues.
People can stay in contact with each other through online communities
Another advantage of social media activism is that people can also stay in contact with each other through online communities. In fact, in our current state of the world, it is quite easy to create social media groups in order to stay in contact with people from all over the world. Not only will those groups be great to coordinate your actions, they will also give you hope in difficult times of your life.
In fact, if you engage in activism on a regular basis, you will often be hated and this will not always be fun. However, through those online communities, you can mentally support each other and help you to stay strong and to achieve your goals in the long run.
We can spread our ideas through social media
In general, online activism is quite efficient since we can spread our ideas through social media at virtually no cost. In fact, as long as you have internet access, using social media is basically free and you can share as many ideas as you want as long as they comply with the laws and with the regulations of the social media platforms.
In fact, if you really learn how the different social media platforms work, you will have a great advantage in the future and can make your activism efforts as efficient as possible.
Technology allows us to make video calls for free
Thanks to our advanced technologies, we are now even able to make video calls and conferences for free. In fact, you can even make slideshows or other presentations through video calls and can share your information in a structured manner.
Thus, also if you want to present rather complex ideas to a big group of people, online activism through the use of video calls or conferences can be a great way to go.
You can protect yourself against physical dangers
If you join a demonstration in person, you will always face the risk that those demonstrations get out of control and that some radical people will take it too far. In fact, at many demonstrations, activists throw fireworks or other dangerous materials around and you may get hit by one of those items.
In contrast, if you just sit in front of your computer inside your four walls, you will be quite safe and don’t have to fear any physical attacks.
Fundraising for online activism is easier
Online activism also has an edge over conventional activism in the sense that it is much cheaper and fundraising for online activism is also much easier. In fact, there are several platforms where you can collect money for your online activism efforts. Thus, also from a monetary aspect, digital activism can make quite a lot of sense.
Your ideas can go viral
As an individuum, you may also feel rather lost and may feel like you can’t make a real impact on what’s going on in the world. However, this is not true at all. In fact, through social media, you can share your ideas and with a little bit of luck, your ideas may go viral and you may reach millions of people from all over the world. In turn, you may be able to have a real impact to make the world a better place.
Disadvantages of Social Media Activism
- Online activism may get out of control
- People can hide behind profiles through social media activism
- Internet is no extralegal space
- Fundamentalists may use online activism for their purposes
- Our children may not be protected in a sufficient manner
- Privacy concerns related to online activism
- Spambots can be a problem
- People may try to bring you down
- Not the same feeling as if you demonstrate in person
- You don’t see members of your community in person
- You may not reach the older generation through digital activism
Online activism may get out of control
While there are many important advantages of online activism, there are also some problems related to it. For example, one disadvantage of online activism is that it may get out of control. If you share your ideas on social media platforms, people may share it with many other people and you may get a shitstorm for your ideas if other people don’t like what you are writing.
Those shitstorms can be quite nasty and people may really insult you quite a lot. Hence, make sure that you have a stable mindset and that those shitstorms will not bother you too much before you share your ideas on the internet.
People can hide behind profiles through social media activism
Another problem with online activism is that people can hide their true identity and act through nicknames. While this can be beneficial under certain circumstances, it can also imply the danger that people often take it too far. In fact, people often feel a high level of anonymity on the internet and are much braver than they would be in person.
In turn, since people can hide behind nicknames, social media activism is often misused and people are often treated quite poorly when they express their ideas.
Internet is no extralegal space
Many people also think that they can do everything they want on the internet. In fact, many people insult each other online since they think that there will not be any consequences. However, keep in mind that the internet is no extralegal space and that you can also get fined for insults or other things you do that are not in line with your local laws.
Hence, in case you want to engage in online activism, make sure that you treat other people with respect and that you behave according to your local laws in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises.
Fundamentalists may use online activism for their purposes
Another downside of digital activism is that fundamentalists may use social media platforms for their purposes. In fact, since it is so easy and convenient, all sorts of people use those online platforms to share their ideas.
However, this also implies that radical people can coordinate their actions over the internet, which can potentially be dangerous for the general public since it may lead to a higher probability of attacks in the long run.
Our children may not be protected in a sufficient manner
Online activism gives us the opportunity to share all kinds of ideas over the internet. While this can be quite convenient, it can also pose a serious danger to our kids since children will often get access to adult content through those social media groups.
In fact, some sort of content is simply not suitable for children below a certain age and it is quite difficult to exclude certain age groups from consuming this content. Hence, social media activism can also be a threat to our younger generation.
Privacy concerns related to online activism
Opponents of social media activism also often claim that there are serious privacy issues related to using those online platforms. Indeed, if you use those social media networks, you give part of your rights for your content away to those networks and you may lose control regarding what happens to your data.
In fact, you will often have no idea for what purposes your data will be used. In turn, you may want to be quite careful regarding what platforms you are using for digital activism.
Spambots can be a problem
If you operate a website that aims to encourage online activism and write blog posts on a regular basis, you will also notice quite soon that some of the comments on your articles will actually not be comments from humans, but just autogenerated content from spambots.
In fact, those spambots can be annoying at least or can even be potentially dangerous if they share links that lead users to rather dubious content.
Consequently, if you are currently operating an online activism blog, make sure that you control comments for inappropriate content in order to protect your users.
People may try to bring you down
Social media platforms are also frequently used by frustrated people who have nothing to do in their own lives other than to try to bring other people down. In fact, if you make videos or other online content, you can be sure that people will try to bring you down, especially if they don’t like your political attitude.
Hence, make sure that you have the emotional stability for online activism and that you don’t care about comments of those frustrated people who will lose in life anyway.
Not the same feeling as if you demonstrate in person
Opponents of online activism also often claim that online demonstrations do not offer the same feeling as demonstrations where you are present in person. In fact, there is a special feeling at physical demonstrations and you will simply not get this feeling through online communities.
Thus, if you want to have this special feeling and the thrill that things could get out of control, you may be better off by joining old school activist movements.
You don’t see members of your community in person
Another issue with online activism is that you will also not see members of your community in person. Even though you could make video calls, it is still not the same as hanging out in person and chatting about certain ideas.
You may not reach the older generation through digital activism
Especially older people may also just not be familiar with social media and online activism and may lack the technological knowledge to join those movements. Hence, certain groups of people may also be excluded from online activism activities since they will simply not know how to join those online groups.
Top 10 Online Activism Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Online Activism Pros||Online Activism Cons|
|Online activism can reach many people||Online activism can be dangerous|
|Your posts can go viral on social media||Shitstorms happen from time to time|
|Digital activism can create communities||Fundamentalists may misuse online activism|
|You can reach people from all over the world||Digital activism may get out of control|
|Digital activism is easy to coordinate||People will try to bring you down|
|You don’t have to be present in person||Online activism implies privacy concerns|
|Fundraising is easier through online activism||Internet is still a legal space|
|Ideas can be spread in real-time||Spam bots can be a problem|
|Low barriers to entry||Children may see adult content|
|Online activism is cheap||Not the same feeling like in-person activism|
Is Digital Activism Good Or Bad?
As we have seen before, there are many advantages and disadvantages of online activism. In my opinion, you should definitely leverage our social media networks to share your ideas in order to reach as many people as possible.
However, also make sure that you are aware of the dangers of digital activism in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises in the long run.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
Wanna make a contribution to save our environment? Share it!