What is it about a Humans of New York photo and heart-wrenching story that makes us suddenly care? What is it about a tragic picture of a lifeless three-year-old’s body washed up on the beach that makes us all want to stand up and help? And why do these aching feelings seem to subside so quickly and disappear from the social consciousness?
Social media and the global immediacy of the news these days makes us simultaneously so aware of social justice issues, but the fact that it comes and goes from our news feeds, and minds, so quickly makes it so easy to move on and almost more difficult to really care or take purposeful action in the long term. I feel guilty just thinking that I scroll through past stories of struggle and hardship and loss around the world any time I am on my phone, sometimes stopping to look and investigate if it holds my interest long enough, or if it’s relatable. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m a genuinely crappy person or if it’s because it’s too overwhelming to me to learn about all of this pain in the world and not be able to feel like I’m exacting any change on it.
Reading these stories and educating myself about what’s going on in the world is so important, and I think that you can’t do responsible social justice work without making yourself fully aware of the situation. But where I’m at in my life right now, what kind of social justice work can I even do? I’m not the kind of person who’ll share an article on Facebook about something and mentally check off a box thinking that I’ve spread enough awareness for the day. Now that I’m not in college, where I could feel like I was making a difference in my little social activist circles, and now that I’m in a place where I don’t feel like I’m a part of any particular community, what can I do? At the same time, doing social justice things for the sake of making yourself feel better isn’t a great reason for motivation.
While I work on figuring this out, I’ll just keep reading and scrolling and watching and talking and learning. I think that’s the best I can do.
Thanks for reading! ~Margaret