Yes, I’m a Facebook activist

The problem with Cuntry Living isn’t the admins, or the banning scandals, or even the cries of ‘shut up white people!’ on every post. It’s the members. Not the internally famous ones, nor the ones that stimulate debate, educate or get angry at injustices. It’s the silent majority, the bulk of the 12,000-plus members that simply don’t speak at all. Reading this right now, you are very possibly one of them. I know I am. The internet allows us to do wonderful things, and gives the impression of long-distance connection. With its 1.39 billion users, Facebook would be the largest nation on earth, creating a channel to the obscenely famous, to obscure aunts in foreign countries, and to your cousin’s new boyfriend’s best friend’s sister. If you aren’t on Facebook, you basically don’t exist. But where does the individual fi t into this mass? As it turns out, the answer is nowhere. The individual simply does not fit into these online masses, I am the Facebook slacktivist. For a politically active person, I am the worst. It has become a nearly acknowledged fact that Facebook is an almighty drain on productivity, energy, and a student’s ability to fi nish an essay. I am that student. I epitomise political laziness. 

Sure, I share posts about why Rhodes should or shouldn’t fall, I gave the ‘Jeremy Corbyn for PM’ page a big, fat like and said that I was interested in seeing Yanis Varoufakis at the Oxfrd Union (I didn’t even bother to turn up, incidentally). I do have opinions, and I do enjoy a good debate. My normative view of the world is clearly defined and often enraged. But those capitalist and Tory forces of evil don’t quake in their boots by looking at my Facebook comments. Let’s be honest, if they ever bothered to look at them they’d probably just roll their eyes. I’m not so much the change I want to see in the world, and more “I wish I could change the world, but not right now, because I should be in the library or, even better, asleep.”

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I’m not alone; our absence is everywhere. The lacklustre turnout at protest marches, the abandoned, empty ballot sheets, the Facebook event with 2,000 people ‘interested’ but with 30 actual attendees. We sit back in our chairs, satisfi ed that by sharing a ‘Sassy Socialist’ meme we did something today: we’ve ticked the Facebook politics box. We return to our essays, our problem sheets, and throw more time away on (you guessed it) Facebook. Unlike our status on Messenger, we are not ‘active.’ It’s fashionable to change one’s profile picture to the ubiquitous tricolore, and it’s fashionably subversive and just about provocative to change your profile picture to all of the world’s flags: there’s violence everywhere, don’t you know. 

Discussion spaces intended to open up conversations about racism, classism, and homophobia have become forums for trolling and tone policing, a form of theatre for those who enjoy watching other people making more articulate points than they could ever make. Even amongst those that are active within these groups, problems remain. Debating amongst one another, educating and correcting people’s pronouns use are helpful things, and if one reads with an open mind and refrains from declaiming it all as being ‘far too PC’, one can even learn. But debating amongst a limited group of active intellectuals is far too niche to have wider ranging impacts. Those in power and those set to continue to hold power for a long while had no qualms about burning money in front of homeless people when they stood in the hallowed halls where we stand, and they certainly don’t care that you shared a harshly-worded Guardian article about them.

Some Facebook groups aim to raise awareness. Awareness is important, and is the first step to actually changing things. A profile picture won’t stop ISIS or tear down the Rhodes statue, and a Facebook group will certainly not destroy the patriarchy. However, from what I can observe, Facebook is seldom the chosen route for actual politics. The fight that matters is in the real world.

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Returning to Cuntry Living, would I ever post something? Probably never. Would I ever attempt to mobilise people to do something? Perhaps. I’ve been active before, but it’s been easy to let university prioritise other things, like £1.50 VKs at Plush on Friday nights, and the perennial essay crisis. I put forth the motion that we the fakers give up and surrender to the status quo that we were never going to change anyway and go back to bed. Let’s not lie to ourselves, fellow internet ‘activists.’ There’s no point bothering really, is there?