Social media usually gets a bad rap, especially when it comes to things like activism and social reform. Online activists are overwhelmingly designated as “snowflakes” or “social justice warriors”. Often, information on social media is widely based on misinformation and “fake news”. But, does social media have a place in activism? Absolutely. Social media has revolutionized the way we fight for social justice.
The primary benefit to using social media in activism campaigns is social media’s ability to spread information faster than ever before. This may seem like an obvious benefit, but it has completely shifted the way we receive, conceptualize, and share information. In years past, breaking news was shared via television or daily newspapers. Today, most Americans receive their news from various internet sources, including social media. Social media usage growth for 2018 is expected to reach 2.5 billion people worldwide (statista.com, 2018). Additionally, approximately seven-in-ten Americans use social media to share information, which demonstrates the far-reaching power that social media has when it comes to the sharing of information (pewinternet.org, 2018).
Most modern-day reform campaigns began with something dubbed “hashtag activism”. Think of #BlackLivesMatter which originated on Twitter in 2013, or the more recent sexual assault awareness campaign #MeToo. These simple hashtags have completely shifted the dialogue surrounding racism and sexual assault, and they all gained traction on a social media site. The #MeToo movement has revolutionized Hollywood and has begun to filter through mainstream America. #BlackLivesMatter brought conversations about race and racism to every household in America. It’s important to note that not every conversation was a positive one, but social media greatly increased their exposure.
One of the greatest things about social media is the platform it can give to otherwise isolated and marginalized people. Entire communities have developed and grown together over social media, and this has exponentially strengthened many activism campaigns. Social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter allow people to organize events and communicate on a medium that is accessible to anybody who has an email address, internet, and some kind of connectable device. This vastly increases potential audience size, and ultimately increases the possible effect that these campaigns can have on policies, politics, and everyday life.
U.S. population with a social media profile 2017. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/273476/percentage-of-us-population-with-a-social-network-profile/
Social Media Fact Sheet. (2018, February 05). Retrieved March 16, 2018, from http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/social-media