Social Media Is Undeniably Giving Power To Youth Activists

Social Media Is Undeniably Giving Power To Youth Activists

Activism has no age.
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Young adults are often told that they cannot enact real social or political change. They are too young, too inexperienced, too naïve, or too idealistic for the serious work of activism. But as the millennial generation has shown time and time again, young adults hold wide potential in the realm of activism and social justice work.

Their efforts have been significantly spurred by social media outreach, creating greater accessibility and garnering wider audiences than other movements in the past. Yet this, in turn, spurs the discussion of social media activism — is it enough to consistently re-post articles or re-tweet motivational hashtags? To show support online rather than in a rally? While the uses of social media are debatable, it has undeniably allowed young activists to incite changes that resonate on a large scale.

A recent example is the massive Boston Public School walkout in early March. Over 2,000 students walked out of classes and marched through downtown Boston to protest proposed budget cuts to the city’s school system. The proposed $20 million cuts would debilitate the budgets of schools across the city, forcing them to cut certain academic programs, extracurriculars, and even the free student MBTA pass. Middle and high school students alike raised their voices against these injustices, creating a demonstration that forced both Bostonian witnesses and the leaders of the city’s education system to consider the damages of the proposed cuts.

The Boston school walkout is one of many instances that shows the power of social media paired with youth activism. Protesters spread their message on Twitter using the hashtag #bpswalkout, summoning students across the city to walk out of their classes on Monday morning. While adults often cite social media as evidence of this generation’s narcissism and laziness, social networks can invaluably unite people in a common cause.

Social media has also been utilized by student activists at universities across the country protesting racism and a lack of diversity in higher education. At the University of Missouri (“Mizzou”), a student-led activist group known as Concerned Student 1950 issued a list of demands in October 2015, intending to address and dismantle institutional racism amongst students and administration at the university. A syllabus about the protest, institutional racism, and black activism was also created to be used in classrooms across the nation. After a graduate student’s hunger strike, a 30-student-strong boycott of the football team, and a myriad series of protests, president Timothy Wolfe announced his resignation and the university agreed to implement a series of initiatives such as diversity training for faculty and staff and the hiring of a Chief Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Officer.

The movement gained national attention and news coverage through its extensive social media presence, highlighting the power of determined students with a boundless online audience. The activists at the University of Missouri also inspired other similar protests across the country. Likeminded students in Ithaca College’s People of Color at IC, Yale University’s Black Student Alliance, and Brandeis University’s Ford Hall 2015, among others, have released similar demands and sparked campus protests against racism.

On a more global scale, consider Pakistani youth activist Malala Yousafzai. In 2013 she was shot by the Taliban on her way to school, and after recovering the attack she co-established the Malala Fund. An advocate for girls’ education and empowerment, at 17 she became the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize. She will continue fighting until every girl across the world has the opportunity to go to school. Her story spread extensively on social media with the help of hashtags like #StrongerThan and #BooksNotBullets.

Millennial activism is distinguished by its online accessibility. Yet its reliance on social media leads many critics to claim that young people engage only in “Facebook activism,” in which they share or re-tweet articles and posts but do not actually contribute to the cause. While this is a valid concern, millennial activism cannot be discounted based on its online presence.

As the past few years have shown, youth activists have a wealth of untapped potential to both identify pressing societal issues and encourage others to create change. Young people have the remarkable power to create dialogue on critical issues, and these conversations — often on social media — are the first step in enacting real change.

Cover Image Credit: Learning Lab

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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We're All Thinking It, I'm Saying It: Too Many People Are Running For President

I'm all for options, but man, do we really need 24? I mean, I can barely pick a flavor of ice cream at Baskin Robbins let alone a potential President.

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There are, currently, 23 Democrats running for President. On the Republican side, there's, of course, Trump, but only one other candidate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. Democrats have a whole range of people running, from senators to congressmen, a former vice-president, and even a spiritual advisor. We can now say that there are DOZENS of people running for President in 2020.

Joe Biden has been leading the pack for quite some time now. He was even leading polls before he announced his campaign. Although he is the frontrunner, there really is no big favorite to win the nomination. Biden has been hovering around the mid-30s in most polls, with Bernie Sanders coming in second. Other minor candidates in the hunt are Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris.

After the surprising defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats have become electrified and have a mission to take back the White House after winning back the House of Representatives in 2018. There are so many people running in 2020, it seems that it will be hard to focus on who is saying what and why someone believes in something, but in the end, there can only be one candidate. This is the most diverse group of candidates ever, several women are running, people of color, the first out gay candidate, and several more.

There could be a problem when it comes to debate time. I mean, the first debate is next month. Having around 20-plus people on stage at the same time, debating each other kinda sounds like a nightmare. How can someone get their point across in the right amount of time when someone else is going to cut them off? Debates are usually around an hour and a half. So, if you divide it up, each candidate would get just under five minutes to speak. That would be in a perfect world of course.

Democrats seriously believe that they can beat Trump in 2020. They say they have learned from the mistakes of 2016, and have the guts and the momentum to storm back into the White House. By July of next year, there will be only one candidate left. Will they be able to reconcile the divide during the primaries? We will see. It will surely be a fun election cycle, so make sure to have your popcorn ready and your ballot at hand to pick your favorite candidate, no matter what party you lean towards.

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