I wrote last week about how different things were when I was going to school and how advancements in technology have made things like learning infinitely easier. But that’s not the only thing that’s been made simpler.
Technology has made it easier to see and not be seen looking, and to know things that we might not otherwise be aware of. But one overlooked advantage is that it allows us to give encouragement to others without having to go out of our way to do it.
I call it “armchair support”. Or maybe somebody else did because I know that I’m not the only one who notices how easy it is for some people to just press a button and be done with it. Lots of people post pictures of themselves or upload photos of a beautiful sunset which is fine because nothing else is really required beyond the obligatory “like”.
But I think we’ve forgotten that there are actually times when we need to get out of the chair we’re sitting in and actually show our faces. Antigua’s population has increased over the years but the island’s size has remained pretty much the same. But no man is an island, and we can actually support causes as far away as Nigeria, hashtagging our way onboard the train bound for wherever the cause is going.
Years ago, we used to pound the pavement. I remember once being involved in the gathering of signatures for a petition about a particular issue. Not only did it mean stopping every third person who passed by, it meant actual engagement with the person – because I had to tell her exactly why I was walking around the supermarket with a clipboard instead of a shopping basket.
Looking for this kind of support also meant that I had to gauge whether the person approaching me (or the person I was going to approach) was likely to be receptive to my cause. Sometimes I didn’t bother. Sometimes it helped if I knew the person, but I could still see the wheels in her head turning as she considered the implications of putting her signature on that piece of paper I was holding.
I received two Facebook invitations the other day to “like” two different pages that were related to different efforts, and I marveled at how easy it was to accept without thinking much about it. I was familiar with the subject of the first one (although I wasn’t too clear on what liking the page was really supposed to do), but not knowing what I could possibly be required to do for the other one, I decided to pass on the second.
These days you can click on a cause, do the research in order to verify the information and satisfy yourself that your virtual signature is going exactly where you want it to go in cyberspace – and then forget about it. You’ve done your part. The more popular (and successful) petitions can make you feel that you made a difference, and that you were part of bringing about change.
That’s why it’s important not to reduce important issues to a hashtag, because as demonstrated by #bringbackourgirls, thousands of people posting pictures of themselves holding up signs or wearing the phrases on their T-shirts – while bringing awareness to the issue didn’t help to bring the girls back home.
So I hope that the humanitarian crisis in the Dominican Republic (where thousands of people born there of Haitian parents are being threatened with deportation), will attract more than a hashtag, because although we may think that it’s the least we can do – especially when the majority seem to be ignoring it – it’s not going to be nearly enough.