If there's anything that recent political events have given the United States, it's a renewed sense of activism. From police shootings to the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the major events in American news cycles of late have been countered by public demonstrations, petitions, and, of course, social media debate. The aura of activism is inspiring, in that everyday Americans feel empowered to do something about the challenges that face them, but on Saturday, a sketch from Saturday Night Live and Louis C.K. reminded viewers that there's no substitute for real action.
In "Thank You, Scott," C.K. plays somewhat of a couch potato, who fancies himself an activist. The fictional Scott O'Connor shares news articles on Facebook and puts "Black Lives Matter" in his Twitter bio to enlighten his followers and send a message about current issues. Each time he takes such an activist position as writing "Resist" above a news article about government surveillance, O'Connor is joined by a diverse chorus, who thanks him for taking that important action.
The sketch is obviously sarcastic, as most of SNL's content is. "So raise them hands, every race, color, and creed, for the man blowing up your feed," raps SNL's Mikey Day. The sarcasm comes across as particularly biting because, let's face it, everyone on social media knows at least one "man blowing up your feed" like O'Connor.
Clearly, the message here is that online activism will only go so far. To truly have an impact, the activism must go beyond the computer screen. To consider social media activism as the real thing would be an oversimplification of society's challenges.
There's no doubt that activism has shaped American history — and usually for the better. But as SNL's sketches warn, when activism is oversimplified, it may not lead to groundbreaking change. For that to happen, Americans still need to take action IRL, by contacting their elected officials, joining a campaign, hosting an event, or finding some other way to get involved in person.