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Social Media for Social Justice

Central students on their smartphones. Photo Credit: Aileen Lo (275)

Teenagers of the 21st century have all too often heard remarks like, “You spend too much time on your phone,” and, “You’re losing brain cells by constantly having your nose in your phone.” The fact of the matter is that the people, usually adults, who bark such orders don’t realize that all of technology and social media isn’t just mindless humor or meaningless communication.

In the last few years, Twitter has hosted a plethora of social media movements to raise awareness about issues affecting people throughout the world. The most visible movements have focused on women (#HeforShe, #YesAllWomen), black lives (#BlackLivesMatter), and victims of terrorism, both in Nigeria and France (#BringBackOurGirls, #PrayforParis, #JeSuisCharlie).

On September 20th, 2014, Emma Watson launched a campaign with the United Nations called “He for She.” In her speech about the campaign, Watson included various topics covered by feminists and acknowledged that women need men’s help to achieve gender equality, hence he for she. Men, including male social influencers like Harry Styles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and women tweeted their support for the campaign using the hashtag #HeforShe.

Another feminist movement on Twitter that gained a lot of attention was the #YesAllWomen. Women of all races, ages, sexualities, and transgender women, using this hashtag shared personal stories of the misogyny and harassment they face on a daily basis. These women also shared the small steps they take every day to protect themselves from violence in the hope that that their stories would make their male relatives, friends, and fellow citizens think twice before saying or doing something potentially harmful.

Arguably the largest social media movement and call to action of 2015 was #BlackLivesMatter. After news of black people being unjustly abused and killed by police became increasingly visible throughout the media, the hashtag became a statement for the black community. It was used similarly to the #YesAllWomen hashtag; to share stories of oppression. In addition, #BlackLivesMatter went a step beyond raising awareness and creating a public dialogue; it was also used to organize action, including protests. The hashtag spurred several other related hashtags: #ICantBreathe was created in honor of Eric Garner, who was strangled to death by a policeman in New York City, and #HandsUpDontShoot was created in honor of Michael Brown, whose alleged last words were “Don’t shoot” to the officer who shot him.

Social media projects are initiated for one sole purpose—to start a conversation. All change starts with a problem being acknowledged, and social media platforms like Twitter make it easier for those problems to be brought to light. Social media is an international platform to voice opinions, creating an accessible, widespread forum for messages to be spread. Through the many projects created on the Internet, it is quite plausible to conclude that our society has benefitted on a large scale due to these movements.

The majority of people on the Internet who contribute to these movements are everyday teenagers or young adults, who generally don’t have much power and are sometimes underestimated in a political sense. However, they have done their part by coming together and drawing attention to people in need. The rest of the world is now left to decide how it can act to resolve these problems and address issues, both national and global.

Jamie Razler (277)
Staff Writer

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