Social media, accountability and audiences

Activism is weird. Like, you do things to change minds, policies, laws, lives. To do that, you need to raise awareness. Your own connections, circles and networks are some quick ways to reach people who are more likely to listen out of some social obligation or personal interest in knowing about your interests.

When activism becomes about personal audiences, though, it’s problematic.

My activism, by and large, permeates every aspect of my life. Work, uni, down time. I spend a lot of time thinking about injustices and ways to change current broken systems. I have posted on social media about many of these things a lot. But as I try to figure out what a healthy relationship with social media looks like (or, indeed, if such a thing is possible), I am inclined to step away from posting about activism so much.

It feels counter-intuitive at first, but a truth I’m trying to ingrain so I feel less pressured to *perform* for those who follow, or are friends/connections on my various social media platforms is that no one is entitled to any part of me. That includes my activism. The petitions I sign, the private conversations I have, the learning I’m doing – what I do does not automatically come with a broadcast notice. Even though such broadcasting does encourage change, action and thinking from others. It’s not my responsibility alone to share what’s happening in my life. That goes for all things, but I find with activism the boundary is much harder to identify because – perhaps down to anxiety or an over-inflated ego – I have been under the impression that people sometimes hold me to a higher account than others.

Accountability is really important for ensuring promises are kept, demands are met and laziness doesn’t creep in when it’s convenient or there’s a lull in louder conversations. Many lulls happen due to burn out after an initial all-out push and an unsustainable approach to long-term activism goals and systemic changes. Nothing happens overnight. Many conversations happen in more private spaces, so it’s harder to see action that’s occurring in the background. Sure, regular updates and proof of progress and commitment are a good option, but some of these conversations are slow going, depending on the players involved.

Social media becomes a hotbed of accountability, limited-context performativity and (mis)judgement. That’s true of any activity posted on social media – think about how many pals who’ve ignored or broken lockdown rules that you’ve raised an eyebrow at, despite not really knowing the full details.

I’m still learning that there is often far more to any given situation than meets the eye. It’s a lesson I’m trying so hard to internalise and naturalise in my initial reaction catalogue. It hasn’t happened yet, but we’re getting there. I’m practicing a more individualistic approach – pause, reflect and analyse with kindness. We have no real clue what’s going on in anyone’s lives, and we’re all painfully aware of the reality-adjacent filters that everyone projects to perform or portray themselves in a particular way (consciously, habitually or subconsciously).

Personally, I have been stepping back my activism posting. The last 2 weeks I’ve been on holiday so – as much as I could – I dialled down the active work and let my brain mull over some thoughts and ideas in the background. It has been an enlightening fortnight for many reasons, but I realised the pressure I felt to share the learning I was doing, the active protesting I was involved in through petitions and the people I’ve been in conversation with about various issues was STRONG. Sharing that information would make little difference at this point – I was performing to prove I could be held accountable for outcomes yet to be achieved. Performative allyship in activism is a tricky bugger to understand or spot in your own behaviour. Overcoming it relies on longevity in your commitment to a given cause you’ve engaged with and a deeper than surface level desire to see justice served – however that might be done.

In writing this blog post, I feel like in a way I’m doing what I wanted to on social media – explain my perceived inaction and justify my social media silence. But I also wanted to acknowledge that this is an ongoing process and learning curve for me. In my position of privilege and with my weird relationship with social media, it’s important I reflect on my actions – even when the action is the decision to not post. There’s no correct way to approach activism or how much you share of yourself online. I’m finding I want to share less at the moment and that will undoubtedly change at some point. The peaks and troughs in content and engagement with platforms will no doubt continue to shape my digital activism, work, research and socialising. I just hope I continue to hold myself accountable and rely less on how others might perceive my activity to judge or justify my posting to any social media, for any reason.

Homelessness in Scotland

Homelessness in Scotland is on the rise again. In 2016-2017, 34,100 homelessness applications were made. Latest figures saw a 2% increase in applications for housing assistance. There’s been a 10% increase in the number of children facing homelessness in the last year. In August 2017, there were an estimated 800 rough sleepers in Scotland. Analysis from researchers at Heriot Watt University predicts that things are only going to get worse – with an estimated 53% increase to be seen in the number of rough sleepers over the next 20 years.

Shelter published the following diagram, which highlights that single males make up nearly half of all homeless individuals in Scotland.

shelter statistics homelessness

Shelter helped 21,145 people in need last year and actively tackles homelessness and housing problems in Scotland

The Beast from the East

The Beast From the East has hit the UK hard. Scotland has been issued with amber and red weather warnings. This is serious, you guys. Red weather warnings equate to “risk to life”. While most of us rushed home from work to the warmth of our heated flats and excitedly made hot chocolates because any excuse, others are not so lucky.

In this current treacherous weather, the homeless are likely to suffer massively – especially rough sleepers. I’ve put together information on charities and shelters that can provide help and shelter to those in need of a bed and hot meal over the next few nights. If you see someone who looks like they need help, please approach them and offer to reach out to a charity. Even just buying them a sandwich and a coffee would make a huge difference. Compassion and empathy is crucial at times like these, when the homeless are most vulnerable.

Edinburgh

Shelter – www.scotland.shelter.org.uk – 0808 800 4444

Streetwork – www.streetwork.org.uk – 0808 178 2323

Bethany Christian Trust – http://www.bethanychristiantrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Signposting-leaflet-updated-Sep-2017-4.pdf

St John’s Episcopal Church

Meadowbank Parish Church

meadowbank parish church night shelter

Glasgow

Glasgow City Mission

Glasgow Night Shelter – 07555 591 466 / 0141 221 2630 – 35 East Campbell Street, G1 5DT

The Simon Community Street Team – 0800 027 7466

Dundee

Homeless Services Unit – 01382 432001 (24hrs) – East District Housing Ofice, 169 Pitkerro Road, Dundee DD4 8ES

Night Ministry – 07999 872 928 /01382 871144 – www.nightministry.co.uk

Aberdeen

Aberdeen Cyrenians – 01224 625 732 / 07870 230 692 (out of hours) – Street Alternatives, 62 Summer Street, Aberdeen, AB10 1SD

Elsewhere

If you don’t know who else to call, please call 111. The Police Scotland phone teams will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

Look out for each other

At the end of the day, we need to have each other’s backs. If you’re passionate about the safety of homeless people and want to push the Scottish Government to do more, contact your local MP. Ask them for their opinions on the effectiveness of current legislation and what they think could be done to improve it. Show you care. Show you’re not going to let this issue slide. Show that you believe every human has the right to more than concrete for a bed.