On Ferguson, Garner & Social Media


Haven’t written in forever but there are things I want to say that can’t be encapsulated in a tweet. I constantly battle with my love/hate of social media. I like the community it can provide, the connections to people you can’t see because of distance or to those you would never be able to meet. It seems to be necessary for most artists these days in order to cultivate an audience. The downside is the extraordinary spike in narcissistic behavior, the unquenchable need for more attention and validation, the dumbing down of our cultural dialogue and the inability to sustain focus for long periods of time.

Then a sea change like Ferguson and Garner comes along and I have no idea what to say or how to engage. I’m horrified by the injustice and I stand with this protest movement that is happening across the country but almost everything I read on Twitter drives me insane. Nowadays we engage on social media over these issues but I can’t help feeling the dialogue is mostly air, mostly noise and mostly self-serving like nearly everything else.

On what planet is a viral hashtag of a dying man’s last words not tremendously disturbing? I see that and I think, this is about the person tweeting, not about the man who died. We use hashtags to find content and for other people to find ours but on Twitter that happens with or without a hashtag. I find the hashtag phenomenon to be incredibly reductive when not used strictly for information. It bothers me so much to see Eric Garner’s last words trending as a hashtag. It makes me not want to engage at all but that’s not the answer either.

How do we use social media responsibly, ethically, positively? I don’t know. Most of what I read is trite, banal and sounds the same as everything else. I don’t know how to have an original, thoughtful voice on social media but what I know for sure is that I don’t want to add my voice to the pointless chatter.


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One response to “On Ferguson, Garner & Social Media”

  1. Shelly says :

    On what planet is a viral hashtag of a dying man’s last words not tremendously disturbing?

    On a planet where it’s used as a form of activism to get people — mainly white people like us — to take notice. Much like people chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot!” (Mike Brown’s last words) at protests. It’s simultaneously a way to remember the murdered and a call to action. We who are white are supposed to be disturbed by this.

    I find the hashtag phenomenon to be incredibly reductive when not used strictly for information.

    I think you’re underestimating the way the hashtags have brought people together and have brought important issues to light. For example…

    * #BeenRapedNeverReported (started by Canadian journalists Sue Montgomery and Antonia Zerbisias). Loads of women (and even some men!) worldwide shared their stories of rape and molestation which they never reported to authorities.

    * #HowMediaWritesWOC (started by the Chicago Taskforce on Violence against Girls and Young Women, the Save Wiyabi Project, Know Your IX, Lauren Chief Elk, and Claudia Garcia-Rojas), challenging how women of colour are depicted in media.

    * #solidarityisforwhitewomen (started by Mikki Kendall/@Karnythia back in 2012), to show how white feminists constantly erase women of colour from feminist conversations and are complicit in their abuse.

    * #YesAllWomen — the first person to use it was really a misogynist douchecanoe complaining about something, but long after that, a woman (can’t remember her name) resurrected it to show that all women have encountered/experienced sexism and misogyny in some form.

    * The way predominantly black citizens of NYC took over #MyNYPD (started by the NYPD, obviously) to showcase police brutality and racial profiling.

    * #CrimingWhileWhite (not sure who started that one) and its response #AliveWhileBlack (started by Jamilah Lemieux, senior digital editor at Ebony magazine). The former showing the disparity between how white people and black people are treated by the police (spoiler alert: white people get away with almost anything). In response, the latter hashtag was created for black people to share the times they were harassed or brutalized by police and yet survived to tell the tale.

    * #Marissa418 (started by the Killjoy Prophets), to unite people of faith (especially Christians) in support of Marissa Alexander. (The 418 is in reference to Luke 4:18, wherein Jesus quotes part of Isaiah, about how he has been anointed to set the captives free. Key verse in Liberation Theology, I believe.)

    IIRC, the Arab Spring of 2011 was sparked largely through Twitter interactions.

    Also: Feminista Jones organized the National Moment of Silence this past summer, shortly after Mike Brown’s murder (if not the day of it?), using Twitter. It was also through Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr that the news of Mike Brown’s murder circulated — well before the mainstream media took it on. The so-called “prosecutor” in the indictment case in Ferguson blamed social media for spreading misinformation. Wrong. It was THROUGH social media that the TRUTH got out there!

    Twitter et al are way more powerful tools than you seem to think they are.


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