Searching for Humanism in Social Media

By Sadie Rothman

These days, everyone and their grandma are on some kind of social media site, if not several. (Okay, not my grandma, but some people’s grandmas are!) All kinds of people are signed up with personal profiles, notification emails, and saved searches. Women and men, young and not quite as young, the full spectrum of sexual orientations, ethnicities and income brackets are represented. Here at the American Humanist Association, we have a whole list of ways to define humanism, but when you turn to social media, you can get a taste of how society defines the term. Looking through newsfeeds, tags and memes on the web allows for a wide view of what humanism means to the general public in a social milieu.

Facebook: This is my personal social media and networking site of choice. I spend too much time on this site, and because of that, it knows me well. A little creepy, but sometimes useful. I need only type an “h” into the search bar and the page for the American Humanist Association pops up as the first result, but I work here, so that’s not surprising. But I also get the pages for the British Humanist Association, Humanismo Secular (community), Humanism (philosophy), and New Humanist Magazine (non-profit organization). If I search “humanism,” I see results with pages for humanism that have been liked by over 38,000 people, and at any given time, over 300 people are “talking about this,” meaning the word humanism is in their status, their comments, or their wall posts. Humanism has a strong presence on Facebook, which, according to this sweet infographic, is the most widely used social media site online. On a site with 845 million active users of varying ages, incomes, and education levels, it’s a small-ish presence, but not insignificant. There are pages and groups for all kinds of humanists, including Humanists for Reason, Compassion and Equality, Humanists for Japan and even Union of Humanists for Batman (though this one only has one “like” so far). There are also site-specific pages for humanists, by city, by state, and by country. If after all that, you don’t see the humanist mission or location of your choice, you can always start your own page!

Twitter: The second most popular site for social networking, which baffles me because I personally find it overwhelming and incomprehensible. But it looks like there are plenty of humanists who have figured it out. A quick search for “humanism” yields tweeters (is that what people who use Twitter are called?) such as the Dalai Lama, Amnesty International, National Geographic and Bill Maher. Apparently the correct way to search for something on Twitter is to use a “hashtag,” also known as placing a pound sign before your search #likethis. This search results in the many micro-news stories relating to humanism that people have posted on Twitter. @pjmccann3 tweets “Santa and god are exactly equivalent. #atheism #secularism #humanism #math.” @spirous celebrates, “The Norwegian Humanist Association passed 80.000 members today! 🙂 #humanism” and offers a link to the organization’s website. @americnhumanist (hometown shout out!) calls the public to action, tweeting, “Use AHA Action Alert to tell Senators to oppose bill discriminating against #LGBT members #humanism” with a link to the AHA action alert referenced.  So, fellow humanists, Twitter is a place for us to share our beliefs, celebrate our victories, and encourage each other to continue our work towards social justice and equality. Okay, maybe Twitter is pretty cool after all.

Tumblr: Tumblr is all about the aesthetically pleasing, so if you want some pretty images relating to humanism, this is the virtual place to be. As far as I can tell, there are about ten new posts tagged with “humanism” every day, give or take a few, so it is by no means one of the more popular tags (such aslove,” “quotes,” or “One Direction”), but even so, there is definitely a steady flow of humanist matter to sift through. Some particularly nice gems I found here include a word cloud based on “secular women,” a photo of a very content-looking Kurt Vonnegut, and countless images of the Dalai Lama paired with his quote on the inadequacy of religion from his Facebook on September 10th.

Pinterest: With more pretty pictures and less words, Pinterest is the social media site for the visually inclined. At first look, the most popular humanist picture on Pinterest seems to be this one, posted by many users. But if you keep scrolling down, you’ll find various incarnations of our pal the happy humanist, feminist photos, and this awesome article on arts, technology and humanity. Somehow, the search for “humanism” also yielded this recipe for Frangelico Tiramisu, and though I’m not sure how that relates, I figured Humanist Network News’ loyal readers might appreciate it.

Reddit: I thought this site was worth mentioning because, even though I don’t use it myself, I’ve heard many people talk about the large, active atheist community on the site. While the sub-reddit for humanism has only 4,406 users, the sub-reddit for atheists boasts over 1,157,000 users. The administrators of the group claim that it is the largest atheist forum on the Internet. Here you’ll find folks promising to donate a certain amount of money to Doctors Without Borders, scientific articles, and quotes from Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Instagram: Instagram is super hip, but apparently you can’t look through any photos without signing up, and I already have too many distractions in my life, so I’m going to abstain. Let’s assume there are a ton of cool humanists making waves on Instagram, though, just for the fun of it.

Have you found a strong humanist presence on other social websites? Let us know in the comments section.

Sadie Rothman is the grassroots coordinator for the American Humanist Association.