Student activism takes form online

Finding a balance for activism on social media is important as we grow more accustomed to being online.

Gen+Z+is+the+first+generation+to+grow+up+with+direct+access+to+social+media%2C+which+is+an+activism+force+on+its+own.+

Flickr CC

Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with direct access to social media, which is an activism force on its own.

As of recently, many different significant things are happening in the world that sparked uproar among students. From the outbreak of the highly infectious pathogen COVID-19 to the nationwide protests on the police, young people all over the nation have been commenting on these significant events. How? With the power of technology.

It is no shocker that Gen Z has a unique view of the world.”

In the past, the only ways people have been able to comment on political or social issues have been either with 1) starting physical protests that catch people’s attention or 2) having enough political significance where your opinions are heard. However, nowadays, anyone can make their voice heard by posting their opinions on social media. The student activist has been a part of some of the biggest movements in American history, such as the Anti-Vietnam War movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Kent State Massacre, and the #MeToo Movement. Gen Z especially has had a significant impact on how we see student activism. Generation Z refers to people ages 13 to 23, beginning with people born in the late 1990s. Although none of them remember 9/11 as well as older generations do, they grew up in the direct aftermath. Gen Z is also the first generation to grow up with direct access to social media, and as the Black Lives Matter movement and ongoing protests against police brutality have shown, is an activist force of its own. “Social media gives me an outlet to share my voice,” says senior Mimi Longe. “I feel like now I have a way to communicate my thoughts with others, despite the distance between us.” It is no shocker that Gen Z has a unique view of the world.

With a combined sense of justice and communities online that older generations don’t have access to—due to lack of knowledge on social media—many students have bound together as a powerhouse and taken action. A powerful example of this was when many TikTok users all collaborated to register to an upcoming Trump rally and not show up, filling the auditorium with empty seats. The rally, held at the BOK Center, which has a 19,000-seat capacity. While the numbers suggested over a million ticket requests, only 6,200 attendees showed up.

However, with the rise of activism online, it has become a norm for everyone to comment on politics regardless of their affiliation with any party. While this is partially a good thing—many uneducated and privileged people are learning about problems they hadn’t even known about before—it has also created an outbreak in performative activism. Many people have been posting online about BLM because it’s a trend, and in doing so, are blocking out other people’s voices. One example of this was “Blackout Tuesday,” a day in which everyone posted a black screen to “not conduct business as usual.” However, many activists and artists are questioning whether that’s an effective, or even a wise approach. Writer and activist Blair Imani wrote, “Why would a movement that directly benefits from social media and vitality receive any help at all from everyone posting a black tile online and logging out for the day? HMM????”

Finding a balance for activism on social media is important as we grow more accustomed to being online. As we continue to stay quarantined, and as the next presidential election rapidly approaches, speaking out online is one of the most crucial ways to educate and learn about the constant political discourse.

The original image taken by demetreeyaa can be found at Flickr CC.