youth activism

[New School] I shared the post. Now what?

Joaquin Mercado
[New School] I shared the post. Now what?

Illustration by Guia Abogado

'[T]hese acts of virtue signaling seem to serve me and my ego more than they do the actual disenfranchised members of society'

New School features opinion pieces by young writers aged 19 and below, highlighting youth issues and perspectives.

In the beginning of 2020, fear seemed to be the emotion that defined us all. 

Among the countless things I already feared in my life – our government being one of them – I was frightened by the threat of an unknown, infectious, and deadly disease without any treatment. So it wasn’t at all a surprise when classrooms became Zoom rooms and inumans became e-numans, as my fear of missing out quickly turned into a fear of catching COVID-19.

But weirdly enough, the pandemic changed more than my university classes and social gatherings – it also changed my social media feeds.

Amid government-enforced lockdowns and unprecedented political unrest, social media seemingly became the medium to engage with the political moment. From infographic carousels on Instagram to Twitter hashtag rallies, my infinite scroll on social media moved away from the escapist towards the political.

But after spending much of the past year liking, commenting, and sharing, I couldn’t help but find myself disillusioned. I was stuck in a cycle of validating and invalidating myself and what I chose to share. During the lockdown, I found time to stalk my past online self, and I couldn’t count the number of times I cringed at desperate attempts to virtue signal and unironically shout, “Hey! Look at me! I’m woke!”

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With every trending topic and pressing issue, I felt an insurmountable pressure to place my online persona into the center of the narrative – posting opinions that merely echoed popular ones, or tweeting snarky one-liners that would just end up in the pile of noise. Case in point: after an unwelcome decision by the UP Diliman University Student Council (USC), I tweeted “usc = university student clownery.” Funny? Maybe. Unproductive? Definitely.

Social media can tend to feel like the Oscars, with the Academy Award for Best Performance in the role of activist up for grabs; and this performative nature fosters an environment where sharing can feel like an end in itself – that ultimately my job is not to actually advocate, but just to be seen as an advocate.

And it’s admittedly easy to get fooled by the numbers – finding validation in the likes, comments, and shares of these posts I make and these articles I share – treating metrics as some sort of litmus test as to whether I had done my share of “activism” for the day.

But it’s high time to decenter ourselves from this narrative. Because at the end of the day, these acts of virtue signaling seem to serve me and my ego more than they do the actual disenfranchised members of society. These issues discussed online continue to endanger communities in the face of a godforsaken administration that just seems to do whatever it wants – and my performance won’t save them. 

So I can’t help but ask myself, I shared the post. Now what?

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Amid a crowded digital landscape, I’m reminded to pass the mic on to marginalized communities so they can speak on their advocacies in their own words, anchored on their own lived experiences. Because it is not our role to speak for the marginalized and oppressed, but rather to stand with them as they voice their calls.

Growing up in a private Catholic school, I’d been made to adopt a savior complex, wherein I believed that I should “be the voice for the voiceless.” But these marginalized communities are anything but voiceless. What they need is for us to listen.

And yet for all this talk of passing the mic, I’d be lying if I said I no longer find myself glued to my smartphone screen, spending hours on end scrolling posts from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok – and you guessed it, sharing them.

And perhaps that’s why I find myself writing this essay. 

I will always discover newsworthy stories to repost, inspiring people to champion, and urgent political calls to amplify, but in doing so, I should also remind myself to stop being so damn self-centered. 

Don’t get me wrong; a share is in many ways perfectly valid – that’s why I still find myself doing it. But it’s never lost upon me that my share won’t lift people out of poverty; my share won’t pass much-needed policies; and worst of all, my share won’t remove the current administration. And so here I am asking, “I shared the post. Now what?”

Because whether it be through organizing with the like-minded or bringing the conversation offline, I’m reminded that our fight should not end with a share, but instead begin with it. 

They say “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” and maybe the journey towards social change can begin with a share. – Rappler.com

Joaquin Mercado is a Digital Communications volunteer at Rappler and a Broadcast Media Arts and Studies Student from the University of the Philippines Diliman. Having beaten cancer at the young age of 15, he is passionate about telling his own and others’ stories — believing them to be essential for one’s survival.

Voices features opinions from readers of all backgrounds, persuasions, and ages; analyses from advocacy leaders and subject matter experts; and reflections and editorials from Rappler staff. 

You may submit pieces for review to opinion@rappler.com. 

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