The power and pitfalls of social media activism

In recent years, social media platforms have emerged as powerful tools for activism, providing a medium for voices that may have otherwise gone unheard. For the Armenian diaspora, online activism has become a vital means of connection, advocacy and solidarity. While these platforms have undoubtedly played a crucial role in raising awareness and mobilizing support for various causes, they also come with their own set of challenges and limitations.

Social media activism in the diaspora has been instrumental in amplifying voices and shedding light on important issues, such as the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and support for Artsakh. Through digital storytelling and strategic hashtag campaigns, diasporans have been able to raise awareness and mobilize support on a global scale.

Digital storytelling can leverage personal narratives to evoke empathy and inspire action. Through compelling storytelling, activists within the diaspora have been able to transcend geographic boundaries, reaching audiences around the world. By sharing narratives across social media platforms and other digital channels, they have successfully mobilized individuals to take action, whether through signing petitions, participating in rallies or donating to humanitarian causes. In this way, digital storytelling serves as a powerful tool for galvanizing global solidarity and advancing the collective efforts of the diaspora.

Strategic hashtag campaigns have also been instrumental in driving engagement and raising awareness on social media. For instance, the #KeepThePromise campaign coincided with the release of the film “The Promise” about the Armenian Genocide. By rallying around a unifying hashtag, supporters amplified their voices, shared educational resources and engaged in conversations about the importance of acknowledging historical atrocities. The campaign sparked widespread discussion and garnered support from influential figures and organizations, further amplifying its impact.

During the Artsakh war, hashtags such as #ArtsakhStrong, #RecognizeArtsakh and #StopAzerbaijaniAggression were widely utilized to galvanize solidarity and mobilize individuals to participate in protests, both online and offline. These hashtags served as rallying cries, uniting Armenians worldwide in condemning acts of aggression against Artsakh and advocating for humanitarian support. Through the power of social media, Armenians connected, organized protests and amplified their voices on a global scale, demonstrating a formidable display of unity and activism in the face of adversity.

However, amidst the vast reach and instantaneous connectivity of social media activism, there are inherent challenges that must be navigated. The rapid pace of online discourse can sometimes lead to oversimplification and polarization, hindering constructive dialogue and understanding. Discussions related to the Artsakh conflict often reduce differing perspectives within the community to simplistic narratives, impeding nuanced discourse and exploration of diverse viewpoints.

Additionally, the proliferation of misinformation and disinformation poses a significant challenge to the credibility and effectiveness of advocacy efforts and the broader public’s understanding of the Artsakh conflict. For example, one viral video allegedly showing Armenian soldiers mistreating prisoners of war was later debunked as entirely fabricated. False narratives depicting Armenians in a negative light can perpetuate harmful stereotypes and prejudice, leading to discrimination and hostility toward Armenian individuals and communities.

Furthermore, social media activism runs the risk of devolving into performative gestures that prioritize optics over tangible impact. The prevalence of “clicktivism” and virtue signaling, through which individuals express support for a cause through superficial engagement such as likes and shares without taking meaningful offline action, can undermine the authenticity and efficacy of advocacy efforts.

To harness the full potential of social media activism within the diaspora, it is imperative to strike a balance between online advocacy and real-world engagement. Beyond hashtags and trending topics, activism must be complemented by concrete actions such as community organizing, fundraising and direct engagement with policymakers in respective countries. By establishing channels of communication with government officials, diaspora activists can articulate concerns, advocate for legislative changes and ensure that the voices of their communities are heard at the highest levels of governance.

Moreover, efforts should be made to foster meaningful dialogue and bridge divides within the diaspora community, recognizing and respecting diverse perspectives and experiences. One specific strategy to strengthen these efforts is the implementation of moderated discussion forums or virtual town hall events organized via social media outlets. These events can allow community members to participate in live discussions on various topics relevant to the diaspora. Moderators can ensure that conversations remain respectful and constructive, while encouraging participation from individuals with diverse perspectives. By creating structured opportunities for dialogue and collaboration, moderated discussion forums can help build connections, foster empathy and promote unity within the Armenian community.

While social media activism holds immense potential within the Armenian diaspora, it also presents notable challenges. By leveraging the global reach of digital platforms and remaining vigilant against the pitfalls of superficial engagement and misinformation, Armenians can continue to effect positive change and uphold their values of justice, unity and resilience on a global scale.

Erika Kazazian

Erika Kazazian

Erika Kazazian holds a degree from the University of Western Ontario in Media & the Public Interest, where she explored the relationship between media, technology and critical theory. Kazazian now works full-time in the tech industry, while maintaining her passion for writing and community engagement. She is interested in how media and technology catalyze activism and drive change within the Armenian community and beyond. An active member of the Armenian Community in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, Kazazian brings her passion for exploring these topics to her contributions within the community.
Erika Kazazian

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