On a global scale, the election of President Donald Trump ushered in an age of division, especially online. In the years following his inauguration, social media became an increasingly politicized tool for debate, news and sharing of ideas. And as the unprecedented events of 2020 began to unfold, social media was set ablaze by the fight for justice. Much of the negative light surrounding social media’s tendency to pressure its users shifted. The pressure was instead applied to making a positive difference in the world.
In the eyes of others…
As evidenced by my mother’s reaction when I told her my topic for this article, this development in online activism isn’t clear to the majority of non-Gen Zers. I told her how though social media can often negatively affect its younger users, especially in terms of self-esteem, there has been a cultural shift online. While she supported my statement, she had no way to relate to it. And unlike my mother, who was overall happy with this evolution, there are many who feel threatened. For example, President Donald Trump. Thanks in large part to Tik Tok, his Tulsa rally was underwhelming and an indisputable personal and political humiliation. I use this example simply as a means to explain that when users unite with a common goal, they can reach the highest levels of power in the country and have an effect.
What is the pressure and where is it coming from?
Again, I feel the need to reiterate that as a frequent social media user, the pressure to have the “perfect” body, “perfect” life and “perfect” feed has absolutely not disappeared. The difference now, however, is that when I’m scrolling through my feed, in the midst of birthday posts, food stories and polls, there is also a considerable amount of activism. A daily reminder to do something good in the world and make a positive difference is always present. There is always a petition to sign, a story to hear, a representative to call and so much more. And when I say pressure, it is in the best sense of the word. There are those who choose to ignore the ever-present need for change. And on the daily, through social media, they are reminded that they are enabling and encouraging multiple oppressive systems.
How to keep it going…
The fundamental goal of online activism is simultaneously complex and simple. Its complexity stems from a reminder that self-reflection is key, and progress must be internal as well as external. Recognizing how oppressive systems benefit each one of us individually is necessary, because without taking responsibility for whatever privilege we all possess, we cannot channel that privilege for good. The simplicity of online activism is in the most basic of its goals. To educate people, make them aware of what is happening in the world around them, and give them easy tools to make the smallest of changes. However, all of the posts and conversations happening online are pointless if they are allowed to die down before having any kind of effect. This can be witnessed in Breonna Taylor’s story and the stories of many others. Her name stopped trending and as a result the pressure on the police to take action against those who murdered her diminished. For her, and for countless other people across the globe, we cannot forget that we have a responsibility. To pressure ourselves and others to have uncomfortable conversations and actively pursue change. Since its appearance in every-day life, social media has done immeasurable harm to many. Let’s use the pressure that it undoubtedly creates in our lives to make a positive difference in the world.
Katya Sucher was born in the United States but grew up in Moscow, and moved to Miami when she was 11. She speaks five languages and has a huge passion for traveling around the world and exploring different cultures. She attends Ransom Everglades Upper School, in Miami. At school, she loves to dance, throw discus and shot-put, is Vice-President or French Club and a member of Diversity Council. She loves writing, and she has every since she was a child. She particularly enjoys fiction, but also research papers about topics that interest her, like the Cold War, or fashion history. She loves sushi, chocolate, music, dogs and fashion. She believes that Gen Z has a voice much more powerful than any generation that preceded it, and its exposure to the ever-changing world is a tool that can help Gen Z influence society for the better.