Activism in the Digital Social Media Era
From leaflets to 'reposts'. The shift towards digitalising activism.
First of all, welcome to my first article published on All Things Ilm. I decided to write about a topic that I feel passionately about. The past two years have been periods of transition and uncertainty for the whole global community, not only have we as a collective society been tackling the coronavirus pandemic, but lockdown and certain events have triggered worldwide discussion, controversy and movements.
As a young adult growing and navigating the current political climate, it has been interesting to see the use of different tools to push forward information, agendas, spread awareness and organise responses to these movements. Most notably, the Black Lives Matter movement following the tragic death of George Floyd in the height of lockdown June 2020. Social media platforms such as Twitter and Tiktok were the main sources of information for the younger generation, as they believed the mainstream media were manipulating the news being reported to the rest of the public. It was powerful to see how revolution and movements have changed from the way older generations have protested in the past.
The digital era has transformed activism especially for the youth. Where once our parents and the older generation distributed leaflets, rallied outside embassies and sent letters to MPs, now with the power of social media activism has been transformed. Young activists produce infographics distributed across platforms, they create content on Tiktok in order to bring awareness to topics, organise social media ‘BlackOuts’ such as #BlackoutTuesday to pull back control on the narrative, all whilst pushing out important details of protests, marches and rallies to get the people on the street to fight for justice.
Whilst activism in this social media era is powerful and has its benefits, especially in giving a voice to the youth and bringing interest to politics in an accessible way, it also has its dangers. It is undeniable the hold this generations social media celebrities, also deemed as ‘Influencers’, have on their audience. I personally believe that the information that these Influencers put out regarding political events needs to be monitored because these positions of influence cannot be left unsupervised without any accountability. Misinformation can be dangerous and can cause panic if ‘followers’ just blindly follow their leader.
For example, the Palestine-Israel conflict is one that has been ongoing for over 50 years. The most recent clash that occurred in May 2021 was one that brought a lot of media coverage both on social media and the mainstream media. At this time, the misinformation being spread caused a lot of hostility and panic and this was due to anyone with social media access having the power to push their own opinions as a narrative and agenda in turn influencing others with little knowledge on the conflict.
I truly believe social media is an invaluable tool and having a presence online allows us to remain up to date on current affairs and have access to information and news first-hand that sometimes is not available from the mainstream media. However, as a responsible activist, we must ensure to do our own research from a variety of sources that we trust both online and offline and be aware of the information we pass onto other activists.
As someone extremely passionate about these issues and who tries to get involved in activist movements and politics, I have benefitted wholly from Social Media when it comes to learning about political issues worldwide. In June 2020, I marched for the Black Lives Matter movement and again in May 2021 for Palestine and to march alongside thousands of others was powerful, especially knowing that social media had brought so many of us together. It is so easy to believe that as one person we have no impact, but one share of an infographic, one repost of details for an upcoming protest, one use of a hashtag has a domino effect far greater than we realise. Digital activists have mastered the art of bringing awareness and traction to a cause but we as the activist society must make sure to continue to campaign online but also bring that to the streets and those in power to inspire real change.
Until next time xoxo