S is for Signal-boost

Woman speaking into a megaphone

This post was partially inspired by Claire Kreuger’s alphabet blog series on colonialism and reconciliation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about signal-boosting as a form of activism recently.  This has in part come from conversations around what work settlers can engage in following the verdict which found Gerald Stanley not guilty in the shooting death of a twenty-two year old Cree man, Colten Boushie. For folks looking for resources on that particular topic I suggest The Keyboard Warriors Handbook to #JusticeforColten and the Idle No More Discussion Guide: Justice for Colten Boushie. There is a lot more to be done than simply signal-boosting this issue. I would suggest folks think about how they can support communities and engage in meaningful work around this cause.

What is signal-boosting?

I was actually pleasantly surprised to find that the Oxford English Dictionary has a definition for signal-boost: “Share (another person’s post or other online content) with one’s own followers or friends on social media so as to raise awareness of an issue, event, etc.”  Essentially signal-boost is using your place of privileged to amplify the messages and voices of others.  It is often discussed in the context of uplifting the voices of marginalized and emerging scholars, activists, and community folks.  Signal-boosting can be a way to gain public awareness of an issue, garner media attention, or generate community support for a cause. It’s about moving causes from the fringes into the public eye and bringing issues into mainstream conversation.

Why signal-boost?

For me signal-boosting is part of doing the work. It is about being part of communities I care for, supporting those who need it, and leaving space for marginalized folks to speak.  Signal-boosting is also about listening.  It is about bolstering the voices and experiences of oppressed communities and using my privilege as a white able-bodied settler to uplift the work of others. I may not have much of a platform but I do have online communities and personal networks who I can share material with.

Signal-boosting can also be a way you can engage with an issue even if you aren’t physically able to march, protest, or attend rallies. It is a way folks can help with a cause they care about even if they are not physically or mentally able to handle front lines activism. For more on the topic of supporting a cause while facing illness I recommend folks read “How To Help The Cause When You Need Help Yourself” by Carrie Cutforth. I love her argument that, “If the only thing you can do is retweet when you are too unwell to do otherwise, you have taken part.”  Sometimes activism means prioritizing your own well-being and doing what you can.  Signal-boosting is important and meaningful work and taking it up as a call is worthwhile.

Pitch to the Platform

Knowing your platform is an important part of signal-boosting.  For example, there is a good chance your audiences between Facebook and Twitter vary greatly.  Personally, my Facebook tends to be a space for family and friends whereas my Twitter account is more professional and far reaching.  Additionally, each site has its own algorithm and understanding what works best on each platform is important.  Photo heavy, personal stories do better on Facebook. Whereas text only posts can still have a wide reach on Twitter if they are linked to the right group of folks.  Learning about hashtags, joining groups of like minded folks online, and reading up on outreach trends can all help you signal-boost.

Do you signal-boost? Do you have advice to folks engaging in signal-boosting as activism for the first time?

Photo credit: Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

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