Activism has played a large role in the development of the modern world’s laws and norms. Even today’s teenager is likely to have experienced many memorable social and political movements such as Love Wins or Resist. Social media and the internet have been key components in many of these movements.
Looking at the success of the recent #MeToo movement, it is clear that the movement found its trend over the Twitter social media platform. The MeToo hashtag was shared all over the world, and with it many victims of sexual assault felt able to share their own stories of abuse. The Black Lives Matter movement recently became five years old, and the hashtag is still widely used over social media. The internet is a platform that allows information to be shared— and its impact is a lasting one.
Around half of Americans have engaged in some form of political or social-minded activity on social media account in the past year, according to the Pew Research Center on “Activism in the Social Media Age.” Anyone with social media has probably observed some social movement or kept up with current politics, and it begs the question: can you separate personal beliefs from social media? Social Media is meant to be an online representation of you, and for some, beliefs are a reflection of one’s personality.
For those who have grown up with the Internet, it’s easy for them to appreciate how helpful it is in kick-starting these types of movements. Some are quick to criticize Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z for their ‘dependence’ on the Internet and technology, but it has shown to be a useful tool. In fact, many educational programs are beginning to be built around technology usage. Having always been surrounded by this new technology, it’s difficult not to use it so much to one’s advantage.
Generations that have grown up with technology are shown to be some of the most liberal generations and in turn have a large number of activists. In a closer look at generational trends, Pew Research Center found that “Millennials’ liberalism is apparent in their views on a range of social issues such as same-sex marriage, interracial marriage and marijuana legalization.” With the younger generations’ trends of technology and liberalism one can infer why social media now plays a big role in activism.
Some may believe that activism over social media is an illegitimate form of activism, criticizing it because it does not include physically doing something. It isn’t reasonable to denounce someone as an activist for this reason. The Cambridge Dictionary defines activism as “the use of direct and public methods to try to bring about social and political that you and others want.” Though it is simpler than protesting, doing something as simple as spreading awareness over an issue is a form of activism.
Activism over social media shouldn’t be seen as lazy or lesser. “Saying they are ‘less’ of an activist only causes tension in the community… There are people who just share the message, others who bring materials for example,” explains avid gun and police violence activist and former FHS student Mya Andersen. “I think everything is all equally important. It all comes full circle.”
Andersen was able to help spread the word for a walkout against school shootings along with other students at the end of last school year on March 14. “We didn’t get it around (to) enough schools to tell them about it. All the talk from social media just picked up, which is why it got so much attention.”
Social media is now a part of modern activism. Through reposting and sharing, users can spread the word. Activists can help plan events using online calendars, and can share the dates of those events. Activism and social media now come hand in hand.