Imagine a world where people’s fates solely rely on one individual — a young woman.
The young woman standing in front of an assembly — emblazoned in gold — blindfolded, a sword in one hand, and heavy scales on the other. She stares down at those who look back up at her, all of them gazing at her with unwavering hope, waiting with bated breaths for her to give the final verdict. In this world, the people have always been taught that this is the way through which justice is delivered; it is held in between her hands. It is only this way. The verdict is given and the masses are present in order to experience such an exchange where the woman’s words are the law itself. And in a way, this is what we also think of when we attain social justice. How it should be taken to court in front of a great audience, how the jury is there to listen intently to their pleas and arguments, and how the final verdict rests on the hands of the judge while the one on trial simply stays quiet while their minds are reeling and hearts are racing.
This has been the common ideal that has existed in our society throughout history and has been tirelessly utilized. Countless lives have been saved and destroyed within those halls: families torn apart and brought together — where the truth is only what each one wants it to be, and where justice prevails if one can prove the innocence they claim to possess. What goes on within those halls is proof of how the world thrives on power, belief and our incessant need to prove the capabilities of humanity itself — as grim or as shocking it may be.
However, times have changed and so have our means to attain social justice. With the rise of technology and as we have ventured deeper into the digital world, we have developed the need to take social justice not to court, but to our screens. In the 21st century, social justice has been digitized and has altered the way we see the woman emblazoned in gold. Instead of verdicts and arguments, the defense and offense comes in the form of tweets and posts that have littered our timelines and feeds. People have switched out cardboard signs of protests for hashtags of uproar in order to garner attention and propel countless movements. Such movements include large-scale uprisings that have gained international headlines such as the Black Lives Matter movement, #MeToo movement, and Stop Asian Hate movement, to more contained but relevant cases in the realm of pop culture and #cancelculture.
The internet has also given a way for people to share their own cases in hopes to be heard by the people. Survivors have come forward to share their stories on social media platforms so that they may attain the justice they deserve against people who might have hurt them or would want to. And in this new-found form of social justice, the internet offers something the court may not always extend: the comfort and aid of anonymity. By sharing their stories, people have gained access to communities that are willing to hear their cases and even take the prosecution into their own hands via the double-edged sword phenomena known as #cancel culture. It has, needless to say, fostered a unique place wherein people are able to say what they want and participate in helping others. Once an issue has garnered enough supporters, there’s very little that can be done to stop a movement from propelling forward — taking justice, not to the streets but to the screens of many and is no longer limited and confined by a single room or a single judge.
Has this made the truth more accessible? It could be, as it has certainly opened the doors for more people to learn about cases and movements and it has paved the way for many more to write their own thoughts on the matter and generate even larger momentum. It has helped bring people the attention they need and has delivered information in front of the right people, but like many other social phenomena that exist within our world, there will always be disadvantages and other stories that should be told. Social justice within social media may not always be correct and is therefore a double-edged sword. Information will spread like wildfire, it will tarnish people’s names with no chance at redemption.
It is a question of what we can and will do with the power that we’re expected to freely wield, especially on the question of anonymity. While it protects us, it is also something that can be weaponized. People are able to post and do whatever they wish without experiencing any consequences. And it’s no question that not everything we see is the truth, and like the events that happen within the four corners of a courtroom, we must criticize and question if certain information is trustworthy or not. After all, we’re speaking on a person’s entire fate or at least an aspect of it. The details we see will not always be what we expect and sometimes we find ourselves forcing the truth, perhaps even one that’s not really there.
As stated, our world thrives on belief and power. And once the internet has been placed right in the palm of our hands, we are able to do whatever we want with the information we see online — to propel it forward with our own beliefs, to twist the narrative, or to ignore it altogether. Such is the beauty and the danger of 21st century social justice. It amplifies and it enables just as much as it enslaves and endangers. The choice will always be how much power we can utilize and are willing to give in — these could be the things we take into consideration before.