Design a site like this with
Get started

If social justice doesn’t happen on social media, did it happen at all?

Exploring the world of social justice and social media…

In the article Amanda & Jacquie shared, Scherman and Rivera suggest that “citizens’ political participation stands at the “heart of democracy” (Verba et al., 1995, p. 1).” And, in one of the articles Alec shared, Benjamin Doxtdator argues that “our schools are not neutral contexts and social medias are not neutral tools.” Certainly, as I even look around my classroom, I see evidence that my space is not neutral. On the back bulletin board this poster hangs:

On the same bulletin board is a small Bible verse that a student gave me:

Today in ELA we are reading Life of Pi. As an activity we did some research on Islam, Hinduism, and Christianity: 

In AP English today we read from a text called The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man:

On my desk is a pile of permission slips that will allow us to post student pictures of our Witness Blanket – our class’s work in response to the calls to action by the TRC:

In no way is my classroom a neutral space. And I wouldn’t say that my choices are always deliberate. I didn’t think about the political choices I was making, the social choices I was making as I hung that little Bible verse a student gave to me ten years ago. I just liked the verse, and thought it was special that she gave it to me. I didn’t choose the AP lit prompt – The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man – based on the social implications of the content; in this case I chose it because it was provided by the College Board, and was accompanied by sample essays students had written, and would prepare students well for the upcoming AP Lit exam. However, I suppose I didn’t NOT choose it based on its content, either. And, in other instances I did make some consciously political choices; our BAC team deliberately chose to respond to the TRC’s calls to action, and to teach our students about these issues. The poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller is an obvious example of my political and social ideologies. 


As teachers it would seem that we have a captive audience, certainly, and an audience that is ready to engage with social justice issues. Scherman and Rivera evidence the “remarkable” number of young people who participated in the protests and the impact social media may have had in not only “play[ing] a role in organizing mobilizations but also partially replac[ing] traditional leadership in the call to protest.” So, with that impressionable audience in mind, and given the audience’s propensity for social media, some may think we have a deep responsibility to use our own social media platforms to advocate for social justice issues, to advocate for change. 


I disagree. 

Let me be clear: I am not against using social media to advocate for others, or to draw attention to issues our students and communities are facing, or to draw attention to broader global issues. I have no problems with this. I do disagree with those that suggest teachers must use their social media platforms to promote social justice. 


I hate the idea that the way we do the work – the work of social justice, the work of engaging in creating equitable spaces for all, must be mandated. We are different people, with different personalities. Not everyone has an online presence, and not everyone wants an online presence. Why does activism have to take place on social media? What if some choose to do the work – and so many obviously do – through other means? There are a multitude of ways we can advocate for social justice that do not involve social media. Like, doing real, live things to help people, rather than just posting about it. I strongly disagree with the poster below. This assumes so much about educators with so little actual information. I would argue that statements like this do more harm than good; they divide in their insistence that social justice must look a certain way. It is incredibly disrespectful to those educators who work hard to create equity and to fight against injustice in ways other than social media.


My bias might be showing. I have such a bad taste in my mouth from those who are often so vocal on social media, but don’t follow their words with meaningful actions. In the day of performative activism (if activism didn’t happen on social media, did it happen at all?), it sits especially heavy. Check out this thread on performative activism, or this Tik Tok:


Reply to @thejesseaton What is performative activism? #performativeactivism #blacklivesmatter #antiracist

♬ original sound – Jess

Another interesting argument against the suggestion that teachers should use social media to advocate for justice is the idea that because we live in a social media echo chamber, our “activism” is really just falling on ears that already agree with us. This brings us another issue in our classroom – the need to teach students to fight against this echo chamber. Doxtdator explains, “As an act of resistance against the way social media is designed to capture us in feeds and bubble us with what we already ‘like’, we need to teach our students how to read widely and deeply, encourage them to be curious and open-minded about the world, and to reclaim the act of listening to other people.” Ramsel argued that neutrality in the spaces can create critical thinkers. I would argue as well that perhaps rather than avoiding issues, we can provide space for that critical thought by having students access a wide variety of views on any particular subject – this is the “wide and deep” reading referenced earlier. I think we can have those critical conversations in our classroom without avoiding issues altogether, nor do I think a teacher’s presence on social media is essential to these conversations.

In the end…

Post it on social media. Or don’t post it. But don’t tell others how they need do the work.


Author: Janeen Clark

I am a teacher with Regina Public Schools in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. Primarily I teach ELA and Fine Arts, and I am a part of Balfour Arts Collective.

2 thoughts on “If social justice doesn’t happen on social media, did it happen at all?”

  1. Good post Janeen. I think that you have brought up some really key points. I think that a lot of educators are doing really good work but don’t put it on social media. I like to think that we have more impact on the kids in our room than the ones who follow us on social media. I like to keep social media private and don’t usually let students follow me. I think it is important that teachers are allowed to private in their private life. If you want to know what I’m doing to promote social justice in my classroom ask my students, if you want to know what I’m doing to promote social justice outside of my classroom get to know me first and then maybe I’ll add you to my socials… Again great post and I especially enjoyed the piece on preformative activism.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: