The growing use of social media affects all parts of people’s lives, including their actions to encourage social change. Various social media platforms, including Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, have already altered how people communicate, build communities, and discuss pressing issues. Social movements move from the physical to the digital world, where people can freely engage in campaigns and debates about their topics of interest. The global expansion of such social media applications and websites may further impact how people choose to pursue social change by giving them more access to communication with other people and an expanded reach to various social groups.
The Use of Social Media
Currently, social media platforms are considered to be an inherent part of one’s Internet experience (Dolata and Schrape 1). People frequently use Twitter and Facebook to talk to their friends, relatives, and other people. Moreover, these platforms are often used for social activism as they allow one to express his or her thoughts and find likeminded people for virtually every existing opinion. For instance, according to Dolata and Schrape, the Internet can greatly accelerate the speed at which a group can be formed (2). Thus, it is also easy to create new movements or gather supporters in a short period of time. Social activists may benefit from using social media as it may be easy for them to elicit responses from both sides of a possible argument. The authors also note that many of the existing social movements have a strong presence on the Internet (Dolata and Schrape 2). Therefore, the place of social media in encouraging change is continuously growing.
Political activism, for instance, has been gaining more recognition on social media platforms during the last few years. According to Velasquez and LaRose, the younger generation actively participates in politics with the help of the Internet by using various platforms to express and share their personal views and opinions (899). For example, hashtags (often used on Twitter) become the drivers of change on social media platforms. Massive hashtag campaigns that various organizations and separate individuals create to promote a discussion about a specific topic can be seen on different sites every day. Users’ active participation in such movements can be explained by the fact that it is easy, does not require a serious commitment, and can be used for bringing more attention to the subject without the need to facilitate any other types of activism.
Black Lives Matter Movement
One of the most notable movements that were created through a hashtag campaign on Twitter is Black Lives Matter (BLM). This movement, formed by Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors in 2013, explores the social and racial injustices that surround the African-American community (Pellow 221). The existence of social media allows this movement to grow exponentially, bringing awareness to various incidents of violence against black people. Here, Twitter and its users play a significant role in the movement’s development and expansion. After some time, BLM transferred from the digital world to the physical one, bringing people together for protests and demonstrations. In this case, social media platforms are used to announce new meetings and campaigns and reach influential persons and organizations.
All it all, the role of social media in encouraging social change is becoming more prominent every day. As it is easy for people to share their opinions and gather information on the Internet, their participation is online-based social movements is not surprising. It is possible that social media will continue to impact the way people view social change. Such examples of active collective behavior as hashtag campaigns on Twitter can show that social media can create real influential movements that gather members from all parts of the world.
Dolata, Ulrich, and Jan-Felix Schrape. “Masses, Crowds, Communities, Movements: Collective Action in the Internet Age.” Social Movement Studies, vol. 15, no. 1, 2016, pp. 1-18.
Pellow, David N. “Toward a Critical Environmental Justice Studies: Black Lives Matter as an Environmental Justice Challenge.” Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, vol. 13, no. 2, 2016, pp. 221-236.
Velasquez, Alcides, and Robert LaRose. “Youth Collective Activism through Social Media: The Role of Collective Efficacy.” New Media & Society, vol. 17, no. 6, 2015, pp. 899-918.