Looking beyond ridiculous trending topics on Twitter and viral internet memes, social media can be a powerful tool for an activist if used appropriately. Modern social networks have incomparable potential to make or break the success of a project, quickly spread messages, and connect people who share a common goal. With a single comment or retweet from the right person, a message can be shared with a huge audience in a short period of time. This is great for the vegan activist.
There are so many forms of activism to embrace, and technology presents inumerable options. A strong online presence is equal to going out and protesting or using vegan food as activism. There is something for everyone to engage in, and using social media effectively is something everyone can do.
Social networking and fundraisers
Donating money is just one of the ways to contribute to a fundraiser. Not everyone can contribute to a cause financially, but if you have Facebook, Twitter, Google+, a blog, or people in your life willing to help out, you’re extremely well equipped to play a role in the success of a fundraiser. All of these forms of communication and broadcast are completely free to use and can truly make a difference for a cause.
Perhaps someone you know is raising money for an animal shelter or participating in a fundraiser for a sanctuary. It takes about four seconds, including reading time, to retweet a link to their fundraising or informational page for a charity. Do it. Now this information reached all your followers who, in turn, may retweet it to their followers. If you have a personal connection to this fundraiser, it takes just another ten seconds to quote the tweet and add a few words, and that’s a fourteen second commitment that may continue to reach thousands of people.
The same applies to Facebook. While Twitter moves along much faster than Facebook, a text link can easily get lost in your friends’ newsfeeds. When posting a link to your profile, preface it with a few sentences on what this project will benefit, an exclamatory comment about the most exciting element of the project, and the most intriguing thumbnail photo. All of these steps will help your link stand out amongst other Facebook posts.
Making connections with other activists
Online forums, Facebook, Twitter, and blogs are great places to meet and connect with like-minded people. The vegan community is a fantastic group of people who are always involved in a variety of projects, fundraisers, and charities. Making these kinds of connections is a wonderful way to spread the word about yours or someone else’s project, get involved in activism online or locally, and meet friends.
If you need to spread the word about an animal rights issue or fundraiser, don’t hesitate to contact activists with a strong online presence or vegan blogs with a wide readership. Most, if not all, of these people will be more than happy to respond to your email and feature the issue on Twitter or in a blog post. Vegans are generally kind people and willing to help your cause!
Using social media to connect with non-vegans
This is a tricky topic. While it’s important to share your beliefs with the omnivores in your life, take caution to avoid being preachy and judgmental. Keep your activism positive. Giving your family, friends, and coworkers delicious vegan baked goods is more effective than shoving literature filled with gruesome photos in their faces. The same principles apply online.
The best way to present veganism in a positive light on the internet is to post about the amazing vegan food you’re eating, the events you’re attending, and approachable articles on topics you want to share. Approachable is the key word here to strike a balance between the two extremities. If your audience is already aware of your veganism, it’s unnecessary to preface every food photo with, “Hey, I’m vegan! Look at my delicious vegan cake. It has no dairy or eggs in it because it’s vegan. Did I mention I’m vegan? Go vegan!” Presenting your veganism as an important part of a well-rounded life is the best way to show how great being cruelty-free is, rather than turning your online life into an impersonal veganism PSA. Similarly, reposting every McCruelty and factory farm photo you see can overwhelm and lose your audience.
Recently, there has been an influx of Facebook posts made by vegans about vivisection, factory farms, and other animal-related topics, prefaced with gruesome, disturbing photos of abused or dead animals. When I see these kinds of posts repeatedly from the same people, I’ll simply remove them from my friends list or hide their feed. More often than not, this attempt at activism will upset your vegan friends and lose the attention of omnivores. This is not new information to vegan friends and the most depressing, gruesome photos can ruin their day. It’s hard to get past these photos to the information behind them, and alienating omnivores like this generally does not make your cause appealing. There are more positive ways to go about spreading information without diminishing the value of your ideas.
The most important part of successful, positive online activism is considering your audience and their feelings, then saying something in a manner that will continue to reach people. Bringing your voice, personality, and sense of humor into your posts really draws attention to what you’re saying, more so than excessively reposting generic messages. The internet is a powerful tool for connecting people, causes, and ideas when used tactfully and positively and can do so much good for veganism.