What Happens When You're "Woke" on Social Media, But Sleep in Real Life?
January 05, 2016 at 2:00 am
Did you know that 85 percent of active Twitter and Tumblr users are currently “woke”? Do you know that typing #StayWoke on your Twitter timeline increases your chances of being woke by 125 percent?
Ok, these are completely made up statistics but you would think that they were accurate considering the trendiness of being “woke” in our current social media landscape. Don’t get me wrong, striving to be conscious is a great thing and we should always be looking for ways to recognize and deconstruct our own social biases. However, it seems as if the number of people who claim to be “woke” on social media far outpaces the number who put that consciousness into action when they go offline.
Being woke is defined by the poet Raven Cras, as the “cultural push to challenge problematic norms, systemic injustices and the overall status quo through complete awareness.” It is the act of constantly deprogramming ourselves, checking our own egos and privileges, and always seeking more knowledge and information to refine our beliefs.
Most recently, the popular hashtag #BeforeIWasWoke swept through Twitter.
#BeforeIWasWoke I thought hooking up with a white guy was an accomplishment.
— tsema (@merlotmami) December 22, 2015
#BeforeIwaswoke I thought that education was all that was needed for people to overcome their poverty.
— AM (@alimasubelele) December 22, 2015
These are all great examples of the power of social media to bring powerful discussions to the forefront of media discussions, but overall there is a crucial element missing from these proclamations. To be “woke” means understanding the urgency in which we must work to transform the world we live in, the whole world. This transcends the social media world where these epiphanies oftentimes tragically stall.
Our social media profiles are an extension of our identities, however, we must remain aware of the fact that they are carefully constructed to promote the image of ourselves that we want to be seen by the public.
It is very easy to type #StayWoke or #Feminist in our Twitter bios. But what does in mean when we say “Protect Black Women” on Twitter and then turn around and defend Bill Cosby at the dinner table? It’s a terrible contradiction which exposes how fragile our social media identities really are. I choose to use Bill Cosby as an example because the subject of rape culture is the area where I believe this hypocrisy is most evident. No one in the #StayWoke movement will openly admit that they are enablers of rape culture on their social media accounts, but they do it all the time in real life. If people were as “woke” about dismantling rape culture in their real lives as they claim they are on social media, survivors of sexual assault wouldn’t still feel ostracized or silenced when they make the choice to speak out. We have become stuck in a murky area where a survivors account of their assault can rake up hundreds of likes on Facebook, but when we see them in person we can’t seem to offer the same type of support.
What good then is being woke on Twitter or Facebook when we aren’t putting our wokeness into action? We see predatory behaviors at parties and we turn and walk the other way because its none of our business. We rally against respectability politics, but then talk about how slutty a girl is because of the way she dresses when we’re with our boys. We discuss institutional racism in great detail, but still have a tendency to shame people for being broke, or being “hood”. As much grief as we give R. Kelly on Twitter, you would think we’re talking about a different Robert Kelly than the one who is still present on many people’s weekend playlists and iPods. It’s as if social media has caused our identities to split into two, the “woke” social media warrior, and the half-sleep person in real life who is still promoting harmful tropes.
We’re still at the start of 2016, so I encourage everyone to add a last minute New Year’s Resolution to their life. Let’s strive to align who we are in real life with the person we created on our Twitter and Facebook accounts. We’re a generation who will quickly hop into someone’s mentions when they say something racist, sexist, or homophobic, but lack that same confidence when someone says something similar in school, work or at home. We know it’s the right thing to do and we’ve witnessed how much influence we have in media discourse when we rally around a cause. Now I challenge all of us to take the ideas and discussions on social media that helped us to become woke and share them with people who might not be following us on Twitter.