In February 2018, a tragedy occurred. Nikolas Cruz stormed into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and stole the lives of 17 students and faculty. Yet, unlike many similar incidents, Gen Z-ers did not accept the notion that all our public servants could say was they had “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their families. We rallied together to start the March for Our Lives Movement. A movement that in my home state of Florida led to the passage of measures to prevent similar catastrophes, such as raising the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 and creating a waiting period of three days in order to purchase a gun.
More recently, members of Gen Z have rallied together to stand up against systematic racism after the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. We are a generation that does not stay silent. We are a generation that goes out and fights for change.
It seems that social media has facilitated our ability to become more politically engaged than previous generations. Over 60% of Gen Zers say they check either Instagram or Snapchat daily. This large audience allows those platforms to draw a significant portion of our generation’s attention to messages from your friends’ workout routine to ways to combat racism. These political messages facilitate our fight for change in two main ways: by educating Gen Z-ers and by organizing Gen Z-ers.
Educating Gen Z-ers
Educating Gen Z-ers on political issues is an important first step to getting engaged. For instance, in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, many took to social media and posted about how easy it is to buy a gun. This message then allows people to get informed, form opinions, and call for change. Furthermore, the ease of reposting an Instagram story also allows that message to be shown to large numbers of people. It’s a simple process: one person posts it, their followers see it, their followers repost it on their stories and so on, and so on. This allows the post to get the educational message out to thousands of viewers with relatively little effort.
Education is also important in turning people into advocates. When one sees an Instagram story or post, they can be empowered with facts and information. Then they can talk to other people that they know in their community using this information. Therefore, allowing the message to spread on social media also facilitates its spread with those who may not use Instagram or other platforms.
Organizing Gen Z-ers
Organizing people around an issue is an important way to ensure that ideas to improve laws can be heard by legislators. A legislator is a lot more likely to listen to a message that comes from 2,000 people as opposed to one that comes from 2 people. Therefore, social media’s ability to organize Gen Z-ers is imperative in ensuring that our voices are heard. Social media has allowed organizations to post information about upcoming protests or events, undoubtedly increasing the attendance and awareness. After Floyd’s murder, thousands of Gen Z-ers attended protests. Many of these protesters knew that a protest was occurring thanks to social media getting the word out.
Furthermore, many organizations have been posting ads on social media that identify an issue and ask people to click a link to send an email to legislators to tell them to fix this issue. Thus, these ads provides an easy way to show people’s support for an issue that they want to fix.
Social media has had a major influence on making Gen Z one of the most politically engaged generations by educating and organizing us around issues that are important to us. If this influence continues, then we can ensure that our generation will be one to bring change, including voting out the public servants who are unable to do so.
Alex Dray is a Senior at Ransom Everglades in Miami, Florida. He is involved in his school’s Speech and Debate, cross-country, and track teams. He also serves as a representative for his grade on Student Government. When away from school, you could find Alex biking with his friends or volunteering for a political campaign. His passion to find out ways to improve the world drives him in what he does. He recognizes that previous generations have created many problems that Gen Z is going to have to deal with and solve. For that reason, Gen Z Identity lab interests him— it is a place where Gen Z can discuss the problems they see and propose solutions.