With social media’s emergence as a large component of our daily lives, people tend to use it as a platform to create change. Using data from Statista, 2.95 billion people are on social media, so it would be logical with so many people it could be a place where change could originate from. However, with so many different social movements and ways of advocating, how can one most effectively use their online platform in a way that would have the greatest positive influence on the world around us?
Educate Yourself on the Issues At Hand
A lot of the time the issue you care about and want to make a difference towards centers around people or a cohort of people that doesn’t include you. For example, the death of George Floyd to the hands of a Minneapolis police officer evoked anger against police brutality and support for the Black Lives Matter campaign in the form of live protests and posts on social media. While the demographic of this issue is centred around African Americans, it is clear that non-blacks will support these issues. However, the first step to take is to educate yourselves on the historical developments that led the situation to be what it is today. Using the Black Lives Matter campaign as an example once again, watching documentaries like 13th (available on Netflix) or reading texts like Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” are just some ways you can inform yourself on the mistreatment of African Americans over the course of American history. Then read up on recent events that have led to outrage. Research for the purpose of getting all the facts right because you lose credibility when you are misinformed or citing incorrect data. Ensure your sources are reliable by questioning the author’s credibility and using primary sources. So many of the issues we face today are due to ignorance and one can never be “too educated”.
Share and Repost Useful Information
In a world where we have mass information and data at our fingertips, a lot of it can be useful to spread. Over the last few days it’s likely you’ve seen a lot of black squares on your Instagram or social media feeds with the caption “#blacklivesmatter” or “#blackouttuesday”. While the intent of the people posting such things rarely have malicious intent, certain activists have claimed such acts can be more detrimental than helpful. African American writer and activist, Raquel Willis, tweeted: “Be strategic about #BlackOutTuesday. Don’t use #blm or #blacklivesmatter with it. It suppresses vital information. Still post about what Black people are experiencing. Post your personal opinion on what’s happening at protests + get involved with them. Educate + share resources about white supremacy.” Willis’ rhetoric that posts adopting the black screen can clog up feeds that would’ve otherwise been home to useful information makes sense because of the algorithms social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter use. The posts from the people you interact with most frequently go on top so when you or Ariana Grande with her 189 million followers post a black screen, your followers will see that as opposed to other information like petitions, bail-out funds or GoFundMe websites for families directly impacted by the situation. Make your posts deliberate with the direct intention of helping the situation in one way or the other. Its easy to post things on your “story” that stay for 24 hours, but make sure you’re constantly working for the cause—not merely posting the social consiousness of others to make yourself feel better.
Sign Petitions/Donate/Call Local Officials
As important as awareness is, you can be part of a movement by taking direct action. The internet is home to a lot of places where people can contribute with time and/or money to make direct change with regards to an issue. There are fundraising pages for all issues from helping migrant workers impacted by COVID-19 in Singapore to helping the Floyd family which George’s brother states that “This fund is established to cover funeral and burial expenses, mental and grief counselling, lodging and travel for all court proceedings, and to assist our family in the days to come as we continue to seek justice for George. A portion of these funds will also go to the Estate of George Floyd for the benefit and care of his children and their educational fund.” In addition to donating, there are a plethora of petitions one can sign that call on government officials to take action on behalf of the citizens by implementing or revoking policies. Although you might feel like your phone call may not make a major difference, these officials are often voted by the people and receiving critical feedback from the citizens may alarm officials of the danger of potential re-election campaigns which may lead them to act swiftly. The public outcry in the US and around the world about ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin resulted in Chauvin being fired, charged with third-degree murder and put in custody within days, something that has rarely occurred in recent US history in police brutality cases. With protestors around the country online and in-person refusing to let up Minneapolis Attorney General, Keith Ellison, took one step further by charging the other three officers involved in George Floyd’s death with aiding and abetting murder, and also increased the charge for Chavin to second-degree murder.
For US prosecutors to work so efficiently is rare, but speaks volumes to the change that can be made when masses unite for a cause. Whether in-person or via social media, change can be made by taking a direct approach and making the right steps. If you’ve gotten to the end of this article, you have the right intentions on your mind, now you need to focus your efforts on how you can best make change for the injustice in our world.