Is Social Justice Blogging Really Social Justice?

Oh, Tumblr: the land where the perpetually outraged, morally indignant, and overly injusticed go to air their grievances. A place for amateur social justice bloggers to profess their undying disappointment in the American Justice System. A place where, in fact, these bloggers may actually be doing some real, impactful social justice work.

According to James Jang in his article “What is so real about online anti-racism?” the central feature of Tumblr’s internet and social justice culture is that of the “Tumblr-identity”. The inherent nature of interactions on the internet removes the everyday social cues in found face-to-face conversation – cues such as race and gender which are important factors when having debates about their respective topics. Therefore online users must find new ways of indicating these facts, which they do through use of their Tumblr-identity.

Jang explains Tumblr-identities as the Tumblr users’ self-descriptions on their blogs of their respective race and ethnicity identifications. This becomes problematic, however, because it takes social cues that are invisible in face-to-face conversation and makes them extremely visible. This, in turn, invites the idea that the users are merely “posers” and “amateurs” who don’t know what they are talking about.

There is nothing inherently different about the arguments that online and real-world proponents of social justice are making. The only difference lies in the way the surrounding culture both perceives and affects the arguments. Perhaps the perpetually outraged, morally indignant, and overly injusticed are in fact saying the same things that protesters in physical spaces are saying; perhaps it is merely the cultural norms to which we so readily conform that makes them seem inauthentic.