Social media’s ability to connect large groups of people anywhere in the world has changed the way we approach activism and social movements. Whether it’s sharing a hashtag to generate support for a cause or using Facebook groups to organize a protest, it’s become clear that modern activism relies on social networking.
“Amid cell-phone footage of protests and toppling statues, the Internet has been further inundated with what we might call activist media”Jane Hu
Social media provides an online space where people can come together to share ideas and plan events like protests and rallies. It can also serve asa platform to amplify and share the experiences of minority groups. Lived experiences of racial violence, sexual harassment, and other forms of oppression often drive the movements we see online. A prominent example of this is the “Me Too” movement, which aimed to raise awareness around sexual harassment and assault. Many of us turn to social media for news about these ongoing movements – during the Black Lives Matter protests this past summer, for example, protest guides and screenshots of bail-fund donations were widely circulated online.
Research shows that people are not just reading about social movements online – they’re actively participating in them. A study from the Pew Research Centre found that roughly half of Americans had engaged in “political or social-minded activity” on social media in the past year. This activity could include joining a group relating to an issue or cause, encouraging others to take action, looking up information on protests, or using hashtags relating to a political or social issue. 69% of those surveyed believe social media is “important for getting elected officials to pay attention to issues” while 67% believe social media sites can be used to create “sustained movements for social change”.
“Posting to social media could be seen as actually doing something with decision, but is it actually using the energy to necessitate any change?”Peter Suciu
Social media’s increasing role in activism has also generated some controversy: there’s an ongoing debate over whether posting online qualifies as a “valid” form of activism. The term “hashtag activism” was coined to describe “the act of showing support for a cause through a like, share or other engagement”. Critics question whether simply liking or sharing a post contributes to any real change or if it’s just a way to support a cause without taking any meaningful action. The debate around hashtag activism calls people’s motivations into question: are they really trying to make a difference, or are they just trying to make themselves look better?
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, it’s clear that social media now plays an important role in creating social change. Have you used social media to support causes you care about? What do you think of using social media as a form of activism?
How has social media shaped modern activism? https://bit.ly/2P3PgUD
Activism is moving online – for better or worse https://bit.ly/2P3PgUD