– by The Shitty Activist
(The following satirical piece is based on a true story)
As an activist, I know how hard it is to get the word out about a cause. Unlike corporations, we can’t hire our own PR firm to do the job, so it typically falls upon ourselves to spread the message, usually via social media.
I’m admin for the Reddit page (called a “subreddit”) for activism. My job is to moderate the forum and delete any posts that don’t adhere to the rules, mostly those irrelevant to activism and other forms of spam.
It’s pretty easy to determine whether a post has anything to do with activism or not, but spam is a little harder to define. Luckily, Reddit has clear rules about spam, which includes any posts that might be considered “self promotion” of any kind. This doesn’t just mean hawking cheap sunglasses, but also linking to any original pieces you may have written and posted on your own blog.
If you’re not familiar with Reddit, you might be asking why linking to an essay you wrote on a particular topic is treated the same as soliciting pornography. The answer is simple: because it’s the rules. And if you’re an effective activist like I am, you know how important it is to follow rules made by those in charge—whether they appear logical or not—without question.
The most popular thread on the activism subreddit involves activists complaining about how often media censors our voices. It’s a vital discussion because media is a gatekeeper for ideas and if they choose not to cover an issue, very few people hear about it. On the other hand, if media reports on a topic that is obviously important to some people, other people will probably think it’s important too. Following this public exposure, political and social change is often inevitable.
Last week a new member posted to the discussion. However, instead of following the Reddit requirement of tapping out a hastily written, typo-riddled emotional screed, linking to a Huffington post opinion piece vaguely referencing the topic, or sharing a silly meme—ideally Patrick Stewart or the “I don’t always…but when I do” guy—she linked to a 1,000 word piece she had written that week for her blog, addressing censorship of activism in the media.
I clicked on the article and read it word for word. It was one of the better pieces I’ve seen on the topic, and it did a convincing job of arguing how the media often ignores certain new causes for as long as possible—until it starts making them look bad to do so.
Unfortunately, according to Reddit rules, her article was spam. As much as I hated to do it, I had to delete the piece and ban her from the group. She might’ve been a legit activist fighting the good fight, but she was also a spammer, and that negated her contributions to activism.
Naturally, this person wasn’t happy about the post deletion and ban, and she contacted me asking why her piece was gone and why she couldn’t post anymore. I ignored her first message, as well as her second follow up later that week. But when she brought up the irony of her piece on activist censorship being censored on the activism page, I figured it was time to school her on the true meaning of activism.
So I copied and pasted her the rules of Reddit and its definition of spam, reminding her that her thoughtful, well-researched and even-handed article had no place on Reddit. She might as well have been sharing a link to a “chicks with dicks” website (no offense to any members of the transgender community), as it was all spam.
She responded right away, apologizing and saying she wasn’t aware that she couldn’t post her own work. She said she wouldn’t do it again and could she please be added back to the group, as she very much wanted to participate in what was going on and join others’ causes.
I responded back, letting her know that, as much as I wanted to, my hands were tied. After all, she had clearly broken the laws of Reddit and I had no choice but to uphold order. The only way I can keep the activism subreddit from descending into utter chaos is to maintain the hierarchy.
The next day, another response from her. This one included a quote from Reddit that said up to 10% of posts deemed “self promotion” were acceptable, so long as the proportion was not exceeded.
I shot back that since I was admin for the activism subreddit, I could make my own rules. But even so, since she had only made one post and that post was self promotion, that meant 100% of her posts were self promotion. Game, set, match!
She complained that was only because she couldn’t post any more in the group since I had banned her. She had wanted to introduce herself to everyone with a piece she wrote specifically for that purpose, to establish her credibility before leaving any other comments or linking to pieces written by others.
Suspicious now, I decided to check out her blog to see who this person really was. I scrolled through the first ten articles, then the next ten, then the next ten, going back a total of three years. All of them were well written pieces on various aspects of activism. But guess what they also had in common? They were all her pieces! Yep, she was spamming her own blog!
I told her what my little investigation had uncovered, how I couldn’t believe that she’d no longer spam on Reddit since spam was all she posted on her blog.
Then she told me, and I quote, “You have no idea what the word ‘spam’ means. I’m trying to contribute to the conversation on activism and you are censoring me. I was hoping to inject a little life back into the group and you’re not letting me.”
I assume she was referring to the fact that the activism subreddit has only 26 subscribers. While it’s true that there were over 500 when I took over as admin last year, the dozens of people I banned for posting their articles—and the hundreds who left the group in protest—obviously didn’t belong. After all, activism is about quality, not quantity.
If you want to share links to carefully considered original thoughts, that’s great, but please keep it to Facebook and Twitter. However, if you want to be a part of Reddit, you need to drop the egotistical obsession of having your own nuanced point of view and expressing your opinion in any sort of meaningful way.
Speaking of Facebook, the next day when I tried to log on to my timeline I found that my profile no longer existed. I contacted Facebook and received a message later that week that I had violated their stupid standards of not using a real name for my profile!
Because of my sensitive work deciding who gets to speak on the activism subreddit—as well as the fashion, recipes, trains, and many other subreddits—I’ve attracted a lot of enemies, so I’ve learned to protect my privacy. Unfortunately, Facebook’s arbitrary policy of requiring the use of real names was endangering my safety! And so was this so-called activist—since she was obviously the one who reported me!
Luckily, Facebook’s dumb-ass rules are easy to circumvent and I created a new fake profile under another alias. Suck it, Zuckerberg!
So let this be a lesson to all you activists out there. Hopefully, you now understand that activism has nothing to do with taking a close look at the world and using objective evidence to back up your points to ensure your cause resonates with the world. Activism is about one thing and one thing only: emotional tirades, slanted opinions, and funny memes. Anything else is spam and will be treated as such, on Reddit and pretty much everywhere else.