Casey Martin/Achona Online/Piktochart
Whether you are scrolling through instagram or updating your status on Twitter, chances are that you will come across a form of activism on social media. This activism is present on many types of social media and are made to catch the public’s eye and bring awareness to an issue.
These forms of activism may come in fundraising links, uniform profile pictures and challenges that go viral. One notable challenge is the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” which encouraged people to film a video of themselves dumping a bucket of water on their heads to raise money, however, it transitioned from a fundraiser to more of a challenge for teens. Some argue that activism through social media is very effective because of the accessibility to such a large audience through minimal efforts. However, many question the actual impact of these simple “shares”.
“I feel that if you’re raising money for a cause then social media can be effective for spreading awareness for an issue. But if you’re just talking about it and not doing anything to solve the issue then it’s really just a front,” said Maddie Rodriguez (’21).
Going back to the summer of 2019, accounts with the name “Sudan meal project” began to trend on social media which sparked activism throughout Instagram. Many people began to share these posts which would “donate a meal to the starving Sudanese children” and change their profile pictures to blue.
Despite the popularity of the awareness, the reliability of these accounts showed that very little was done about the actual crisis in Sudan. Many of the accounts turned out to be fake which only hindered the motivation for spreading awareness about this issue.
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) June 17, 2019
In recent terms, the wildfires of Australia have conquered the social media world in forms of activism. To those who are unfamiliar with the news: the fires in Australia have burned land about the size of West Virginia and has killed 24 people and half a billion of animals.
“I learned about the wildfires in Australia from social media when I first started seeing my friends post images of the fires on their stories. I then also saw people posting their talents which they would use to try and raise money for the cause,” said Elizabeth Fuschen (‘21).
In response to this tragedy, many people have taken initiative to raise awareness for this natural disaster by spreading posts on their own social media.
Due to the extreme spread of these posts, many people around the world have had access to the reality of these animals and people living in Australia. Many people have also changed their profile pictures to red for more awareness of these fires that are occuring in Australia. However, are these actions actually impacting the fires of Australia or they only impacting those who share?
“In a way, I think that even though those who use social media to raise awareness have good intentions, but simply posting about something takes less than 5 seconds and it does not equate to actually making the effort to evoke change. Oftentimes I see people repost a ‘trendy’ picture of some cause and then never see them support it again, which completely counteracts the cause,” said Katelyn Chau (’20).
While many users have voiced their concern for the fires of Australia on their social media, many are also calling out celebrities for not helping as much.
Selena Gomez w/ a net worth of $50 mil donated $5 mil towards the Australia bush fires and helps build schools in Kenya, but Kylie Jenner w/a net worth of $1 billion posts a picture of a koala and says “this is so sad…” and posts a picture of her mink slides right after. https://t.co/x5e1MBgEbG
— gianna♈️🔮🦋 (@giannamericana) January 7, 2020
While some celebrities are not announcing their contribution to the cause, others have spoken out to make an even greater difference.
Not even catastrophes like these seem to bring any political action. How is this possible?
Because we still fail to make the connection between the climate crisis and increased extreme weather events and nature disasters like the #AustraliaFires
That's what has to change.
— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) December 22, 2019
Although social media creates better efforts for the spread of issues among the internet, it also encourages “slacktivism”. According to the United Nations, “slacktivism” is “when people support a cause by performing simple measures but are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change”. This typically means sharing or writing about an issue on social media without actually making a donation or going to lengths to impact the issue at hand.
“I think that slacktivism is real because I always see these posts that are like ‘repost and save 1 tree’ but is that actually making a difference? I think people need to do more than just press a button because as easily as they post it, someone can just as easily click out of it,” said Christa Guevara (’23).
Due to slacktivism, many feel that issues die out after getting exposure on social media without any actual initiative taken.
“Even though social media is a great way to raise awareness, it won’t solve the problem. As a younger generation we have the ability to help fight climate change for our future generations. We need to take more action instead of just posting on our stories about how sad it is. If you find it sad, start a fundraiser to help those affected and do something about it,” said Danielle Finster (’20).