Over the past few months, I have done a lot of observation via social media, as we dialogue about the very important events unfolding in our world. As we engage in socially conscious topics, there are a few patterns that I’ve seen pop up in my timeline over and over again. As time went on, I began to code these patterns into a list of the types of dialogue strategies and commenters that you will find in Social Justice (SJ) conversations. I compiled a fraction of this list into a satirical blog for your enjoyment… and also to let you know that you aren’t alone… I see it too, boo! 🙂
*Important Disclaimer – I will not be talking about The Social Justice Activist or The Ally in this piece because I want to refer you to the brilliant work that they are already doing and to the things that they are already saying. [Please see below]. I will also not direct any of my attention here to those who engage in online dialogues to openly terrorize and antagonize through racism / sexism / and / or any other form of oppression. I have seen their comments but prefer to give more energy to work against systems that allows them to feel so comfortable in being antagonistic.
*Disclaimer #2 – While there may be consistent patterns on Twitter, I’m not as familiar with the medium… soooo these are observations drawn from Facebook. In addition, not everyone will be described as a Commenter – some are posters, some are commenters, and some are observers. I’ve grouped them all as Commenters because Dialogue-rs and Responders didn’t flow nicely: executive decision #1. In addition, you will find I use debate / dialogue interchangeably. I am aware that they are not the same thing… but Facebook Social Justice Dialogues and / or Debates is too long to post: Executive Decision #2. If this were a forreal-deal paper, you could consider this my Limitations section… but it’s not. It’s a satirical blog post. I’ve also made fun of myself in this post but I’ll leave it to you to decide which one I am:
7 Commenters You’ll Find on Facebook Social Justice Debates
1. The Diplomat – You will often find the Diplomat posting attention grabbing and / or controversial articles, offering a vague call for responses. At least 5 of the 7 responders described below will comment, like, dislike, argue, and / or counter-argue. The comment thread becomes a space for both open racism / classism / misogyny, etc. and / or coded racism / classism, misogyny, etc. and the counter-arguments that roll on for at least 30 – 50 comments. During this time, you really won’t hear from the Diplomat. A few hours later, after the comment section has cooled off a bit, the Diplomat arrives back on the cyber-scene. The Diplomat will respond in one of the following ways: a) Deflect – introducing a completely different topic here [many times, this tactic is disguised as ‘Additional questions / angles for you to ponder or an exclamation about how many comments they have to work through’], b) Diffuse – work through everyone’s points, trying to find the validity in all of them [insert trite sayings here], and then officially closing the conversation without really saying what they thought / felt in regards to their original post, and / or c) Destruct – Simply deliver an implicit or explicit ‘closing message’ via the thread in order to stop the conversation, again… without saying what they thought, challenging any assertions, and / or
2. The DroptheMic Mogul – To ‘drop the mic’ typically means to say something so profound & poignant that the individual who said it can simply, ‘drop the mic’ after they’ve said / typed it: No closing statement. No clarification. No further statement. The medium for the DroptheMic-er really does not matter. It could be on their own timeline, on another’s page, in a comment thread, on Twitter, on Instagram, etc… the objective is to Drop the Mic. I can’t lie – I love a good #DroptheMic moment when it’s organic and when it resonates with me. You don’t understand… I will throw confetti and facilitate a thundering round of online-applause before you leave the stage if you manage a #dropthemicmoment well. But I will share a little side-eye if it seems that you engage in dialogue online JUST to #DroptheMic.
3. The Receipt-Puller – On the whole, it seems that the Receipt Puller is disengaged in conversations about social justice via online forums… until they post the obligatory Pulling post that sounds a bit like… “A lot of you are talking about systemic change but what are you doing to create systemic change?!” If this is done generally, it can sometimes work as a call to action. However, if there are tags and direct responses in a comment thread or on a timeline… then you’re probably encountering someone that’s trying to pull your receipts.
It’s important to remember as we navigate social media dialogues, that it is tactless to assume that because someone is spending time in dialogue online that they are doing nothing OFFline. As my students say, ‘You don’t know their life’. Quite a few people who are consciously engaged online are also engaged offline in civic matters, writing, research, activism, community service, scholarship, and more. My Gramma says, ‘You are wise to not make folk have to pull out their receipts because you just might have to issue a refund on your statement’. Welp!
4. The Positivity Promoter – You may not see the positivity pusher actively in your comment thread, but you will see them in your timeline. To the positivity pusher, engaging in topics such as race and / or social justice is just not positive… and so, not worth cyber-space. So, during heavy times of sociocultural unrest, you will typically find them posting pictures of animals, and food, and flowers. Though I disagree with the assumption that dialogue / information = negativity, their page could be a space to decompress and / or disengage for a while. Or… you could log off.
The derailer comes forward with any tactic that they can, in order to prove that your points are moot, invalid, and / or ill constructed. Some of the tactics they use are a) Erasure – “Not everything is about race”, b) Making it Personal – “I think you’re letting your own biases as a [insert sociological identity here] get in the way of your objectivity, c) Making it Interpersonal / Individual – “This is about one or two ‘bad apples’ spoiling the bunch,” d) Name-calling – oh trust me, I’ve seen it before, e) Disassociating – “I wasn’t there when [insert one of the horrific historic events here that led to systemic subjugation of peoples of color] – why am I being blamed? What does that have to do with me?” and the list really could go on and on. In fact, RaceForward (2014) did an entire report on how mass media essentially derails conversations about race and social justice. Oop! (Read it… you will get your whole life)! People typically take three approaches to the Derailer, when they are found in the comment section: 1) They ignore / block them, 2) They engage them, 3) They call them out. The most successful attempts that I have seen in terms of Derailers is to either ignore and / or call out the behavior. Engaging Derailers ‘points’ is like trying to put mist into a time capsule, as they tend to simply pull out another tactic (see chart above) to see if they can successfully derail the conversation. I’m still looking to see whether or not ignoring and / or calling out the behavior is most effective, but my gut feeling is that you really can only discern that on a case-by-case scenario.
Honorable Mention and / or To Be Unpacked Later:
The Confused Ally
The Judge & Jury
The Spiritual Warrior
Who I’m Following / Reading & LOVING:
Dr. Brittney Cooper
Dr. Tamura Lomax’s work on The Feminist Wire
Dr. Alisha Lola Jones’ insights
Aida Manduley on The Ferguson Masterpost
*Image Credit: Home Office, Maresa Smith, deathtothestockphoto.com
Which of these themes have YOU seen as you engage in dialogue online (and / or offline)?! Which do you gravitate toward, if any? Which aggravates you the most, if any?