Social Justice Activists vs. Social Justice Warriors

English: Rally for social justice, Beersheba, ...
Rally for social justice, Beersheba, Aug 13 2001 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When a blogger links to something in a post, he or she assumes that readers follow the link to learn more about the subject. Suppose I were to write, "The meaning of atheism is quite limited." I would assume that anyone curious what I meant by the "meaning of atheism" would see that those words are linked to another page and would click on that link to go to the other page. Bloggers use links like this because it is far more efficient than to have to define terms in every single post. It works quite well most of the time, but there are occasions when it falls apart.

Imagine that a reader who has no idea what atheism means but thinks that he or she knows reads the sentence above. This reader is unlikely to click on the link and will misinterpret the post as a result. Who cares? Much of the time, we do not need to care much. What I want to highlight in this post is a specific example of where this sort of thing can lead to a breakdown in communication.

I have used the term social justice warrior here on occasion, and when I do so, I have been careful to link to this definition. I assume that not everybody is familiar with the term and that some people use it in different ways, so I take care to link to that definition so readers will know how I am using it. But when a reader does not bother to click on that link, they might assume I mean something very different from what I mean.

Strangely, some people do not seem to understand that "social justice warrior" has a distinct meaning that is very different from "social justice advocate" or "social justice activist." Take a look at this definition from Urban Dictionary and you'll see what I mean:

A pejorative term for an individual who repeatedly and vehemently engages in arguments on social justice on the Internet, often in a shallow or not well-thought-out way, for the purpose of raising their own personal reputation. A social justice warrior, or SJW, does not necessarily strongly believe all that they say, or even care about the groups they are fighting on behalf of. They typically repeat points from whoever is the most popular blogger or commenter of the moment, hoping that they will "get SJ points" and become popular in return. They are very sure to adopt stances that are "correct" in their social circle.

The SJW's favorite activity of all is to dogpile. Their favorite websites to frequent are Livejournal and Tumblr. They do not have relevant favorite real-world places, because SJWs are primarily civil rights activists only online.

It should be fairly obvious that a "social justice warrior" is not doing social justice work at all. Far from it. They are arguing, often poorly, about social justice topics on the Internet to boost their ego. They may not even believe in social justice but are seeking popularity and status. To confuse "social justice warriorism" with actual social justice work is a mistake that will lead to misunderstanding.

I have great respect for people doing social justice work. As for the "social justice warriors" (using the definition above), I find much of their behavior worthy of contempt.