These are the days of digital activism.
Bell Bajao, for instance, is all about bringing domestic violence to a halt. It uses digital tools, among many other offline tools, like concerts, to spread the awareness. Aircel, on the other hand, uses mass media (paid media) and social tools like website, Facebook page and so on to raise awareness about the dwindling number of tigers in India.
So, how could people respond or support such causes? In Bell Bajao’s case, they could join their online properties or attend offline events to show solidarity or connect with appropriate people to know more. As far as Aircel goes, the call-to-action is a bit murky…or non-existent, at least as of now. People join their online properties to lend a voice to their cause. It’s upto Aircel to do something with the collective voice. It is also unfair to expect Aircel to do everything to save the mighty tiger – other players/stakeholders could perhaps take on individual tasks and lead on-ground initiative.
Jet Airways, for instance, is doing a fantastic job in this case. It is predominantly an on-ground initiative, but is beautifully supported by social media for communication purposes.
Called, The Jet Airways ‘Save The Tigers’ Expedition, Jet Airways explains the initiative as a “12 day motorbike expedition to Three Tiger Sanctuaries: Ranthambore and Sariska in Rajasthan, and Corbett in Uttarakhand, to understand the ground realities and create awareness among the citizens of India to step forward for the conservation of our National Animal – the Tiger”. The initiative started on April 5th and Jet Airways’ Facebook page has been cataloging the progress quite beautifully, with photos and summing up ground realities of problems faced by forest officials. It is heartening to see the moderator responding to people’s comments too. This is almost like Jet took on the baton from Aircel and continuing on the process of doing their small but to raise awareness about the tiger population decrease.
Most importantly, Jet Airways seems to be using its own employees to make this initiative happen – that is a brilliant thought at many levels!
These examples are about a real world cause, merely supported and made viral by social tools. But, can the cause and the support stay on in the social world alone, together? That is, with no offline activity? At least notionally – maybe!
Today, 91 years ago, Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered opening fire on a group of Indians inside a sealed garden space called Jallianwala Bagh. Reason…background…I suppose Wikipedia would be a better source for those information. The bottomline? 1,526 people died.
What can we educated masses do? We have our busy office schedules, multiple responsibilities and so on. I’d perhaps love to travel to the location in Punjab and pay my tributes – but it is simply not practical, at least for me. The best I can do is pay my respects by observing silence. It is merely the equivalent of us Indians standing up with respect whenever we sing/play our national anthem. Do we need to, everytime? According to the law, perhaps yes – but it is a personal thing.
But social tools offer opportunities to unite for such causes – the feeling of doing it collectively at the same time is perhaps a simple, but effective way to feel the nature of cause and offer solidarity.
I, personally, felt like observing a 15 minute twitter silence, to mark my respect to the slain ones. If I do it in my office – verbal/vocal silence, only I’d know about it and it ends there. Instead, if I do it on twitter, being a compulsive tweeter, it may send a sign to at least a few fellow tweeters about the fact that something horrific happened to our fellow country men, 91 years ago, that deserves a few minutes of reflection. It is simply like watching The Pale Blue Dot video by Carl Sagan – it puts our life in some perspective; similarly, a brief thought about the horrific massacre could possibly put our existing freedom into perspective. It may sure not last, but a momentary thought is in itself a big deal in these multi-tasking, multi-diversion times.
And there was real twitter silence between 4:30 and 4:45 pm today evening – my timeline was almost blank and it was quite surprising that I wasn’t alone in considering this a worthy method to show respect.
A quick, informal check reveals that almost 42 tweeters tweeted about the idea and many more perhaps joined in with their support, without tweeting about it explicitly. No, I did not have any hashtag to make it popular or push it actively to become a trending topic – this is not a marketing initiative to give it package for better appeal. It was instinctive, impulsive and highly personal. It worked in its own small way and even if those 40 odd people spent at least 2 minutes surfing the net and reading up about Jalianwalabagh massacre, it is a minor effort in diverting our attention from all the things that are going around us.
After all, we could have spent those few minutes doing anything we wanted – continue to the gossip on Shoainia or the topic of the day – Tharoor Vs Modi. We could have tweeted tweet-nothings to one another or shared yet another funny URL. But the fact that at least some of us chose to stay away from what we love doing so compulsively – albeit very, very briefly – perhaps showcases that we’re willing to give our most precious resource towards a cause…any cause – our attention.
In this attention-economy, that is everything and more!