Digital activism has drastically changed the way dissatisfaction and criticism of social and political issues are expressed over the past two decades. Smartphones, the Internet and the availability of a number of other tools and services have enabled the organization of many different movements that have mobilized a large number of citizens, in order to achieve a specific impact or cause change. Every day, various new forms of activism dawn online, and they bypass the traditional channels of political and social movement. They primarily use technology and social networking and offer alternative perspectives on organization and integration.
From the multitude of different tactics that are certainly intertwined in online and offline action, we will single out a few that have been predominant in recent years, both in Macedonia and around the world.
It means using the blog format as an internet tool, in order to influence the occurrence of particular social change. People use blogs to combat various types of social injustice, such as unjust imprisonment, government corruption, environmental degradation, human rights abuses, and so on.
Basically, a blog is a great tool for activism, because it allows anyone with an internet connection to launch a social change campaign with the potential to be heard, both locally and globally. It gives ordinary citizens incredible power to oppose the authorities, to act as alternative sources of information, to organize supporters, and to lobby those in power.
Starting a blog and blogging is no more complicated than opening an email and texting with friends.
The content of blogs is more visible to search engines, stays relevant for a long time and is a great testament to the development of a particular activity. Content may be published by one or more authors, or anonymously. It can contain several multimedia types of content in one place, which gives extra space compared to statuses, videos or photo posts on social media.
These are purpose-built websites dedicated to just one specific topic or issue that is being thoroughly addressed. Often, these microsites can be part of a specific campaign or support a more complex fight for change.
Tools that offer fast and functional webpage building allow such microsites to appear more often, containing different functions.
Paid Search Targeting
More than 3.5 million searches occur on Google every day. A large portion of the time, paid ads are displayed along with the results. These ads are one of the most effective ways to get your message across, in a well-targeted way. You know which people would search with a particular keyword or phrase, you form an assumption regarding their intention, you prepare an ad just for them and you bait a click. With creative use, this tactic can be aimed at taking over the agenda for a particular topic or simply presenting the other side of the problem to a target audience that is otherwise difficult to reach in any other way. Also, the same tactics can be used in so-called ego-surfing (Googling yourself).
Probably one of the most effective tactics of digital activism is the use of the hashtag. Basically, hashtag is a keyword, phrase or acronym with # in front of it, denoting a topic that is written about (advocated) by many users of social media. It all started with Twitter, when users felt the need to follow their discussions more effectively, and then it grew into one of the core functionalities of any subsequent service.
One of the most recent global examples of hashtag activism is the #MeToo movement that sparked public outcry against sexual harassment and abuse. The campaign started in October 2017 and very quickly its local variants came to light.
Although such campaigns usually start from Twitter, today, it often happens that they quickly and effectively spread to Instagram, YouTube, Facebook and other platforms. The power of this type of campaign lies in the ability to quickly mobilize a large number of active users of social media, thus increasing the visibility of the campaign itself. This will influence the decision-making centers and at the same time encourage more people to be actively involved with more specific support.
Locally, one of the first and most powerful hashtag campaigns was the #протестирам (#IProtest) campaign, which started after an attempt to cover up an incident in Skopje’s main square, after which a young man was killed.
When trying to create this type of campaign, it is important to choose the right hashtag. Such campaigns aim to set the framework of the discussion. A well-chosen hashtag can positively influence the definition of values associated with a political position and attract more people to discuss the topic. The hashtag is often a polarized word that inspires people to take a stand and discuss it. An appropriate local example is the hashtag #СлушниЈа (#HearHer), related to the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign.
One of the basic recipes for the success of a hashtag is to provide a critical number of supporters in the early stages of using it. Before launching the hashtag, it is important to check if it has been used before (both in Cyrillic and Latin letters) by someone else (it may be another country, language, etc.). All this is aimed at avoiding unnecessary interference of several different contents in further communication
Online (political) parody and satire - memes
If we consider Limor Shifman’s definition of Internet memes as a socially constructed public discourse in which different meme variations represent different views and perspectives, then we can easily understand why memes are a powerful tool for understanding the general opinion of society. The same goes for memes that touch on current socio-political topics. They reflect the views of how a particular political reality should or should not be.
Memes have the power of quick and widespread sharing, thus reaching a huge audience. Although the very act of sharing is often criticized as “fake” activism, when it comes to political content, some specific studies confirm that it is in fact an important and delicate activity. Sharing such content means that fears of violating personal privacy in terms of political views and the like have been overcome. Recent research shows that Internet memes play an important role in political expression and civic emancipation.
Instagram and Facebook accounts/pages that are dedicated to such content are especially relevant today. From the local examples, we can single out: Seir, Просечен Македонец во Европа (Typical Macedonian in Europe), kamaj.net and others.