In her interview with the Guardian, stylist and writer Ayishat Akanbi said, "My problematic ideas are my favourite ones, because they are the most genuine." 
I learned about Ayishat Akanbi through a video that landed on my YouTube this week. She is known for speaking on topics related to activism and woke culture. In the video, she was speaking in a women's conference in Sydney, with a talk titled, The problem with wokeness
And we are running into problems. Several of them. So today, we're dissecting, and learning how to move forward.
If you've read my previous post on cancel culture, you might be familiar with how I feel about wokeness. But their discussion in that conference is one of the most powerful I've seen.
So what is it?
Wokeness, which is now a word in the Cambridge Dictionary, is a state of being aware, especially of social problems. You can be woke about anything — climate change, racism, veganism, and onwards.
If you're an active user of social media, you most likely have advocated for something before. At the same time, you most likely have seen people in a heated argument before, too. Activism is growing — and for good reason! But can it be that our act of taking it into social media is making our passions for change a little more complicated?
Not only is it taking a toll on our mental health, online activism is steering us towards performative awareness. Here's what that means: When a video or graphic relating to an issue is posted somewhere, it very easily spreads like wildfire. The black squares for #blackouttuesday was a stellar example. Now raising awareness is important; I'm not saying it isn't. But when the bulk of our activism happens online, we run the risk of doing the bare minimum and calling it a day.
The second problem we have is the threat of conformism. We're following one set of ideals, and antagonising the rest. The hope that an entire generation of the Internet can share one ideology, is not only supremely unrealistic, but also very dangerous. I say this as someone who is a racial minority, who writes for women's rights and believes in social justice: I have to accept the fact that change doesn't necessarily mean everyone agreeing with me.
In her speech, Akanbi explained, "Shooting ideas down doesn't eradicate them, but prompts them to operate with insidious undertones, and in doing so, we push people into the arms of extremism."
If we don't make room for different perspectives, we're only scaring everyone into having the same opinions. Which leads me to our final problem in woke culture: Strong intolerance. Now you might be reading this and think, How dare she call me intolerant! But having progressive, left-wing politics doesn't mean you can't be prejudiced, the same way having traditional politics doesn't mean you're unkind.
I should mention that I have also sinned in all these areas. I have a) hit repost within five seconds for the sake of 'raising awareness' — even if without donating, b) blindly followed a perspective I thought was cool from the Internet, and c) stereotyped people who don't share the same values as me.
We all have our shortcomings in online activism.
But from here, we can do better.

We don't put good things into the world when we're angry.

What causes our issues with wokeness or online activism is that it's reactionary, not responsive. So how can we do better? First, step away after receiving information. 
It'll always be tempting to react — to raise a voice on the issue as soon as possible — but we don't put good things into the world when we're angry, and self-awareness has to come before activism, not after.
Contrary to popular belief, it's okay to 'post late'. In fact, wait. Let the noise die down. Take a minute to breathe and think— process your input before deciding your output. In doing so, it is in this space, this window of time, that our reaction (anger and shock) can turn into a response (a considered approach). This approach can mean seeking knowledge, taking action, self-evaluating... This way, our output will not only be more informed, but much less hateful too.
Second, advocate in private. When you disagree with someone on Twitter, try DM'ing them instead of replying. When you see a problematic Instagram comment, try messaging them privately. What happens here is we're taking away the performative element of online dialogue. We allow for a real conversation to happen only between us, and this person.
Akanbi said it beautifully: "We can rebel against the lies and caricatures we've been sold about each other by being more interested, than irritated."
Be interested, not irritated. Instead of shaming a person's opinion, be curious about how it was formed. I'm willing to bet that if you approach anyone kindly and harmlessly enough, you can both be vulnerable and share your thoughts, however different. And you'll find that seeking to understand a person's views is much less tiring than defending your own. You might also find that all of us across the spectrum have more commonalities than we think.
If you don't find middle ground, though, don't internalise someone else's ignorance. You really owe it to yourself to not be angry over something stupid being said online. I truly think distancing yourself from online debate is a form of valuing your energy. Akanbi said, "Anger is productive if it's an occasional visit, not a permanent residency."
Personally, I'm also not a fan of resharing something to say, "This is disgusting", and leaving it at that. Because I've found that it spreads nothing if not my own anger and cynicism. It's also important to not always be in a hurry to show everybody how stupid someone is — because who does that serve if not our own entitlement?
And this ties to one of my favourite moments from Akanbi's discussion in that conference. "I try not to be offended by anyone I don't consider intelligent," she said, "Otherwise I would always be offended."

"I try not to be offended by anyone I don't consider very intelligent." –Ayishat Akanbi

And finally, I believe the best step we can take on being better at online activism, is to not take it online at all. Speak less on social media. Share as little as possible. Remember: the Internet can live without your opinion. This advice isn't to make you silent about causes that matter, but to prioritise the quality over quantity of your activism.
An Instagram story is not the only way to draw awareness. Message a close friend and ask if they've been supporting any causes lately — and if they say no, recommend a few! Take wokeness into your real social circles, not just your following. Implement woke values into the workplace. Bring awareness into the family.
Alongside all of this, in the words of Ayishat Akanbi, "Compassion and empathy are paramount to any social movement." 
In order to move anywhere, we have to be willing to exercise both. Activism is less in what you show, and so much more in how you listen, think, and do. 
Against all odds, I believe in my heart that a balanced society is still possible. I believe that humanity can withstand a lot, but also achieve a lot, when working together. I don't know if I'll be around for when that day finally comes. But it doesn't matter if I'll always be angry.
What matters is, with all this anger in my hands, I know exactly what to do with it.


Watch the full discussion with Ayishat Akanbi in the All About Women 2019 conference, here.
What are some causes that you're currently passionate in?


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