The Cool Kids: Why To Be One
This last weekend I was at Skeptech along with Skepchick Heina Dadabhoy and many other lovely friends of the network (as well as our fearless leader). Heina was one of the speakers this year and her talk was about becoming one of the “cool kids” online, e.g. how to get followers, become a popular blogger, get people to watch your vids, etc. She had some great tips, but when question time came around there was one question that stuck out to me: “Why do you WANT to be one of the cool kids?”
Heina answered wonderfully by pointing out that as an atheist, poly, queer individual, it’s not necessarily easy to find a community outside of the internet, and creating that community is incredibly important. But I think that as the next generation of potential internet cool kids (seriously guys, we’re gonna take over), we should be aware of what we can accomplish when we take the microphone.
One of the amazing things about the internet is that it allows anyone to speak. You could be a trans, poly, atheist, mentally ill, person of color and on the internet you are still allowed to have a platform. This is radically different from media of the past. If you are part of an oppressed minority and you manage to become one of the “cool kids”, you drastically increase the number of eyes who are going to see the experiences and perspective of a minority that otherwise would be silenced. Not only is this important for that community to have role models and people speaking openly about the struggles that they face, it’s also important for the privileged masses to see that they are not in fact the default or exactly the same as everyone else.
Especially when you’re someone who is interested in social justice and wants to have an impact on the world, being one of the “cool kids” is essential to online activism. You can’t educate or change minds if no one is reading your writing or watching your videos. Eyes on you is power, and the power of the internet is that you have more influence over whether eyes are on you than if you had to ask a publisher for permission. No, your writing most likely is not going to be ground breaking, but the more people who read you saying “Yo dawgs, reverse racism isn’t a thing”, the better. Being a “cool kid” with a conscience can change things.
And it’s important to have your voice out there online. Activism is thriving on the internet, from twitter hashtags to change.org petitions. Like any other form of activism, you can’t just waltz in with no credibility and tell people what to do or how to think. In order to influence activism at this moment in time, you need to be online and you need to be credible online. It’s great to also have an offline presence, but the people who have influence online are important, and it’s important that those of us who care about social justice and improving society be some of those cool kids. Redditors and MRAs know how to attract listeners. We need to be strategic as well if we want to be effective at spreading messages that we think are true and beneficial to the well being of other people.
Even if you aren’t interested in online activism, being one of the cool kids does give you something that most of us would like: the influence and power to create community. Most of us go online to connect in some fashion, whether with information, entertainment, people, or something else. When you have enough followers or subscribers or commenters that they become a community, you have the power to ask them to create whatever it is you’re looking for. That’s kind of amazing. You can connect with the people you like or care about, you can ask them for the information you’re looking for, you can play games with them. You may not be a dictator, but you do get to set a tone and push things in certain directions.
So that my friends is why we should be spending time focusing on the internet and on becoming the cool kids. If we don’t, think about who might.