Danielle Kanter, Grade 9, Staff Writer
Today, Instagram is filled with people reposting petitions to sign, organizations to donate to, and posts to spread awareness. Compared to the first days of Instagram, this is a big change. There has been an influx in activism since May 25th, 2020, when a police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, killing him. Afterward, people on social media took to protesting police brutality, creating the #BlackoutTuesday movement in honor of George Floyd.
There were countless protests following Floyd’s murder, many of which were spread through social media. Accounts were created dedicated to encouraging attendance at these protests. These accounts also covered what people should and should not bring, and what to do if police officers used tear gas against protestors or exercised their powers in a way that may be dangerous to the crowds.
Since May 25, a surge of people started posting about racism and racial inequity. “Since the end of May, activism has become much greater on social media," said Nora Demak, a ninth-grader at the High School of American Studies, "Every day, I see people posting about issues they care about and want others to learn about, most frequently those having to do with racial injustice and how individuals can help.”
Social media is also used to spread information about countless other issues. The HSAS Advocacy Club uses their Instagram account as the primary method of communication for spreading awareness about issues. “[We have] given lessons to our club members on how to create these posts and how to make sure the information is reliable,” Anya Mateu-Asbury and Talia Homer, the leaders of the HSAS advocacy club, said.
Many teenagers use their accounts to share issues they care about or believe are important for others to help with.“I use Instagram when I have a specific topic or issue I want to spread awareness about," commented Demak, "Yesterday, I reposted [the] HSAS Environmental Club’s post about planting trees to offset the paper usage of our school, so people would donate money or order trees for themselves.”
“Social media is effective in spreading awareness on issues, and guiding people to make a difference in other ways such as giving petitions to sign, places to donate, etc.,” said Homer and Mateu-Asbury. Social media can be used beneficially to help share topics and issues which many are unaware of, and guide people to help by sharing specific petitions and donations.
Although social media can be used to spread false information, it can also affect activism positively by spreading awareness. As technology evolves, these websites and apps have become increasingly popular, so it is important for individuals to use them as tools to fight for social justice.