Over the last few years, I've watched, though been rather apart from, a few social justice movements. Whether or not I believe in their respective causes, I don't really have the energy to go to rallies, get angry and all that jazz. That may or may not make me the "enemy".
I used to go for that. When gaining a new belief, especially one further from the norm, you want to shout it from the rooftops. It's an intense experience. That alone explains a huge amount about those vocal about music tastes, personal relationships, and internet atheism. People want to know that others agree with them, and want to revel in that feeling of being accepted.
After much introspection, and having a break from having strongly held beliefs that I couldn't help but bring up, I had a few thoughts.
Followers of a cause will often bring up that cause, whether as part of a casual discussion or as a calculated PR move. There is also the distinction between whether that cause will be discussed or heard by other followers or non-followers. The latter requires some special examination.
Far too many people will repost (on tumblr or facebook or your social media of choice) snippets, quotes, comics, or whatever other media that only makes other followers feel smug and self-satisfied. Such media does have a use. It solidifies the core and makes people feel like they are right; the followers feel like others agree with them and it can be explained simply and clearly. Moreover, it ridicules the opposing viewpoints, something people take savage pleasure in.
However, if such a post is viewed by a non-follower, it will tend to alienate them. The logic or correctness (morally, socially, or practically) of the argument posed by such a post is irrelevant. Non-followers, both adversarial and apathetic, will immediately feel defensive against such a post. Why, though? Especially the apathetic group, one who is not tied to one side or another.
People react poorly to smugness unless they are in agreement. The active participation required for smugness to work in a social context means that even the apathetic are alienated.
Thus, when making such a post publicly, the follower must consider; does she care more about her image or her cause. If she posts a derisory one-liner or some other such thing that mocks the opposing viewpoint, she must understand that such an act will help herself at the cost of alienating people from her cause.
Does it, though? Within her movement, people will agree with her, laud her over her peers for telling it like it is and so on. She will become more popular (even in a small way) within her social movement. But the movement, as a whole part of the community it is part of, is hurt, as apathetic members of the community are alienated by being treated as monsters.
People must, of course, take care of themselves. But in trying to spread the word, followers must be aware of how they appear to the outside word, if they truly wish others to follow the cause they do.
We all know people who do this. In fact, I think almost all of us do this, to some extent or other. But if we are aware of it, perhaps we can reach the unwashed masses we all so sneer at.