It's time to put "woke" culture to bed.
When you go on Instagram or Twitter nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see people call themselves or act as if they're “woke.”
According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, woke means to be aware of and actively engaged in political discourse especially related to racial and social justice.
However, the use of the term and the culture that surrounds it is anything but politically informed.
Even former President Barack Obama had something to say about the contemporary social media trend, “This idea of purity, and [that] you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff — you should get over that quickly,” Obama said, speaking at the annual Obama Foundation Summit.
The term originated in its current usage with the beginnings of the Black Lives Matter movement. An article on the term from NPR writer Sam Sanders described the social-justice related origins of the word: “BLM activists have been striving, for years now, to convince people of all races to value and respect blackness, to take issues like the deaths of black people at the hands of police seriously. Woke became shorthand for a mindset and a worldview that values black lives,” wrote Sanders.
Don’t get me wrong: I love seeing someone get passionate and active over political issues that are relevant to them. But I’m sorry to break it to you, reposting something on your Instagram story doesn’t make you anymore politically informed than your peers, or anywhere near an activist.
Unless you’re an elected official, you’re most likely under-informed about the countless factors that contribute to a political or social justice issue.
The statement also is tied to a sense of pretentiousness about how much one cares about the issue. Over time, "woke" became shorthand for our politics and eventually it moved from shorthand to a weapon.
Those that use the term and partake in the rules that govern it seem to operate under the assumption that a tweet about a certain political issue equates them to a social activist, fighting for your rights because you’re not “woke” enough to care. Anyone can make a Twitter or Instagram account. Anyone can retweet a post from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. Anyone can make an Instagram story about climate change. Those things don’t make you any more politically conscious or informed than the average American.
The ignorant trend is not something that is confined to the virtual bounds of social media, as the trend has greatly contributed to the development of cancel culture and an overall spike in political polarization.
In a survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute, 91% of participants believe the country is divided over politics. With the 2020 presidential election looming, the number is bound to get substantially worse.
Since those who govern the rules of “woke” culture feel as if they’re self-empowered political geniuses that know every conceivable detail of any given political issue, those who disagree with their skewed views are wrong. As a result, the toxic, vile monster of cancel culture was born.
The sentiment around cancel culture and being woke isn’t actually all that bad. At their respective roots, they hold people accountable for their actions and encourage people to stay politically engaged in their community. But social media has soiled that innocent root, warping both terms into having a strongly negative connotation.
In a sense, those who follow the rules of cancel culture and being woke are in actuality dangerously shortsighted, as they're unable to see things from another perspective.
I’m not woke for making this commentary. I’m not woke for working for a newspaper, or being required to be informed about the news. If your way of staying politically active is to use social media, more power to you. But don’t adopt a false sense of power because you hit the repost button and I didn’t.