Activism and social movements have found a new home in the ever-changing digital age. While protests, campaigns and word-of-mouth are still valid and commonly used methods of working to create change in the world, social media has added a new dimension in allowing people to contribute to movements and show their support for things they believe in.
In May, when the Black Lives Matter Movement was once again brought to the forefront of America’s attention after the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, social media found a new purpose. Feeds and timelines on popular platforms, such as Twitter and Instagram, were flooded with posts being shared or reposted in support of the movement.
Ranging from posts containing the facts about the recent events to sharing the horrific videos of the retaliation from the police during peaceful protests across the country, BLM received support and attention from millions of people, not only in America but across the globe.
Gone were the typical spring break pictures, selfies and reminiscing on past trips. Social media was turned into a weapon of change.
But what does sharing a post to your Instagram story really do?
On #BlackOutTuesday, a day organized by the music industry to protest racism and police brutality, millions of people posted a simple black square in solidarity with the movement. From celebrities to ordinary people, Instagram was flooded with spreading awareness.
However, after this, arguably a day many participated in for “clout,” or to show support but not do anything beyond this one post, a large amount of the population simply stopped caring about being part of the activism working against racism in our country.
There is no denying that sharing posts on one’s Instagram story or actively tweeting about a social issue does bring attention to the movement and shows one’s support, but that is only the first, minor step in truly working towards making a difference.
Holding conversations with friends and family about topics or issues going on the world helps educate others about one’s beliefs and opens up new perspectives that others may have not seen before.
Safely participating in local protests or fundraisers related to the particular social issues one cares about is another large step that can get individuals actively involved with fighting for change. Donating to national or local organizations, and sharing what one has done, is another way to actively play a role in taking action for an issue one may feel strongly about.
There is no amount of participation too small.
Signing petitions became a widely popular course of action to show support when social justice began the unintentional online campaign for BLM. Since then, petitions through the Internet have become available for everything from abolishing ICE or saving Planned Parenthood. It only takes seconds to sign and share with friends, and many of these petitions are responsible for change on many issues.
Social media does play a crucial role in social movements and change. Spreading awareness through one’s online presence is a incredible idea that came to be in only the last few years.
That simple post might plant the thought in someone’s mind who had never thought of an issue before or will start a conversation with one of their friends.
There are several benefits to using the wide expanse of social media and the Internet in terms of showing support for a cause.
Next time, one absentmindedly posts something to their story or newsfeed on social media, they may be prompted to think about the meaning behind their actions and going beyond a single post toward creating tangible change.