March 29, 2018 @ 4:21 PM
With the emergence of social media as a source for news, it is little surprise that it has also become a social activism platform. But how do you know which movements are credible? Do you fact check news before believing it? Where exactly is social media taking us?
These were only a few of the many questions discussed at the Activism in Media Panel in honor of Black History Month, organized by The BEAT – Viacom’s employee resource group dedicated to the African-American experience – at the company’s Times Square headquarters.
Kimberly Renee Selden, content producer, educator, and founder of The Global Media Project, moderated this conversation among four influential media voices, each of whom shared a background in media and a common drive to pave the way for others.
Charles Coleman Jr. is a civil rights attorney who established E.D.G.E, a movement focused on inspiring the next generation of leaders and creating more positive examples of manhood for young men.
Eunique Gibson Jones is a content creator, director, and speaker who develops campaigns that ignite conversations and introspection. She also founded Because of Them We Can, a movement that empowers the next generation to honor the legacy of their ancestors.
Nantasha Williams is a well-respected political strategist, social architect and community engager, who successfully played a role in organizing the enormous 2017 Women’s March.
Steven Roberts is a director of video for MTV News, who helped re-establish the brand’s voice with a new generation of engaged young people.
Social Media Activism: The Pros and Cons
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat have obvious upsides – giving voice to the voiceless, quickly disseminating information, providing optimal platforms for engagement – but the panel also uncovered some of the downsides, including the spread of disinformation, the cultivation of short attention spans, and a lack of true depth from so-called “engagements.”
Gibson Jones elaborated on a real-life consequence of short attention spans: “Last February, I ran a campaign for Because of Them We Can. On February 1 we like to kick it off for Black History Month, but at the same time our video went up, Beyonce announced that she was having twins!”
The lesson: do not underestimate the importance of strategic timing to the success of social media activism.
Viacom employees with the panelists after the Activism in Media panel at 1515 Broadway in New York City in honor of Black History Month. Photo by Natasha Nieves.
The Power of Positive Storytelling on Media
When creating a movement, it is important to stay positive and consistent, to maintain the mission, values, purpose, and story of that movement and keep people engaged and motivated.
“The stories that we tell and how we tell them have a direct impact in terms of our own self- image as well as our images around others,” said Coleman Jr. “Those in the creative process have a tremendous power to shape narratives. My personal goal and what I am currently working on is creating a platform to reconstruct the narrative of young men of color, so that they can see themselves in higher power, and know that their goals are attainable. Positive stories are visualization, and visualizations become reality.”