Social justice and social media: Resources

Posted Sep 24, 2013 | New Media Project

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By Janelle Tupper, guest blogger


This is the final post in a seven-week series on Social justice and social media.

Janelle TupperIn this series, we've been inspired by stories of social media as a force for social justice. From African-American expression on #BlackTwitter to the It Gets Better project for LGBT youth, from the Pink Mennos project to the March on Washington, to the ever-viral social justice Tweets from Pope Francis, social media is clearly at work in many movements and churches.

But how can we get started using the potential of social media as a force for good? As Verity pointed out in the introduction, social media is what we make of it—content and usage are key. Similarly, a Facebook page with no followers will not accomplish many of its aims, nor will a Tweet that no-one reads.

I work as an online organizer at Sojourners, so it's assumed that much of my day will be spent trying to inspire people and spark movements using online tools. But if you've ever sent out an invitation to an event over email, linked to a petition over Facebook, or tried to spread awareness among your Twitter followers with a shocking statistic, you're an online organizer, too!

So, with that in mind, here are some resources to help you get organizing:

The New Media Project will be a continued source of inspiration and ideas for faith leaders looking to infuse their work with social media, so be sure to check back often. Once you’ve explored the downloadable resources on the New Media Project site and their previous blog series, be sure to read through their analysis on social media use in religious circles. It's a unique resource for faith-based social media users looking to spark change.

If you're ready to get to work and start using social media to ignite change, the New Organizing Institute has a wealth of resources in their toolkits. If that's not enough, sign up for a daily tip that includes everything from how to keep track of your Twitter followers to how to write new HTML code for a Facebook post.

Netroots Foundation keeps a running blog on strategies that movements and organizations are using to spread their message and create change. Try their analysis of the strategy of the “red equals sign” that took over Facebook during the Supreme Court hearings on the Defense of Marriage Act.

If we want our calls for change to ignite, we need to act strategically and seize moments. With creativity and the right sense of timing, anyone can be an organizer. While the above websites have a secular focus oriented toward “professional” organizers, the lessons can be applied to a variety of work.

Of course, the force of social media is that it is democratic. Everyone's favorite source of public inspiration—TED talks—has a section on social media. I recommend talks by Clay Birkey and Evan Williams for some forward-thinking observations on the power of social media to affect government and social change. TED's independently-organized offshoot TEDx has a similar wealth of videos and ideas to share.

Of course, no study of social media as they relate to social movements would be complete without an analysis of how Twitter and Facebook are changing modern protest.

At the time of the Arab Spring protests, Pacific Standard magazine was among those analyzing the effect of social media on the year's events. Their warning to neither ignore nor overemphasize the impact of social media is worth the read—especially for those reluctant to embrace social media, or those who believe that simply creating a Twitter account will solve their problems (a similar analysis on the Occupy Wall Street movement is mentioned in Lerone’s post in this series).

Finally, be sure to check out the podcasts at Social Media Church for ideas on how your church can use social media in its ministry. The authors come from a variety of backgrounds—including staff at the New Media Project.

Social media can seem overwhelming, but with a little trial and error (combined with some well-informed strategies!) churches and social movements will be well on their way to reaching more people with better, faster information.

Janelle Tupper is the Online Organizing Associate at Sojourners. She lives in Washington, DC.

The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmediaproject@cts.edu.

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