By Shetu Modi
You might know Jennifer Hollett from her days as a MuchMusic VJ. Since then, Hollett has worked as a national digital media columnist for CBC News, moderated the Girls 20 summit in Paris and Toronto, and championed numerous social causes. The 36-year-old is an avid supporter and user of digital and social media, and is currently doing her master’s degree in public administration at Harvard. Here, she weighs in on Internet activism and tells us what she’d ask Lady Gaga if she had the chance.
You often use sites like Tumblr and Twitter to raise awareness of social issues (for example, your Tumblr on Apple’s labour practices in China.) When did you start seeing social media/the Internet as a tool for social change? What are the pros and cons of using it in this way?
As soon as I sent my first email and realized how quick and easy it made things, I knew the Internet would change everything.
The Internet and social media allows us to reach new people, in new ways, which makes communication and organizing much easier, but it has to be approached like anything else, with skill and strategy. Digital journalism still requires the same basic storytelling skills as print or broadcast journalism. Organizing on social media still requires the same skills as organizing a rally. It’s not as simple as creating a blog or a Facebook page.
With curiosity. I find people are really interested in figuring out what is going on with Twitter or Tumblr or now Pinterest, and how to connect these tools to social change, but they’re a bit too overwhelmed to initially experiment on their own.
Yeah, there are some boundaries. In the late ’90s, before I worked in TV, I had what was called a webzine/weblog at the time. Sometimes I would write about friendships, which is tricky, since not everyone is comfortable with their personal life being documented online. I remember having to take down a post at the request of a good friend.
In my first TV job, I was asked by the executive producer not to blog about the show. So I didn’t. Funny how things have changed. Now networks are begging TV hosts and reporters to blog for them.
Working on TV, especially at MuchMusic, I felt I was sharing so much of myself on-air, I naturally started scaling back online.
These days, I just ask myself, do I want the world to know this? Or, do I care if the world knows this? That’s my filtering process.