I didn’t know how to be an activist before I got Twitter. Social media gave me a platform not only to help me discuss issues about which I am passionate, but also to discover other issues that I thought people need to know about.
This is the case for many teenagers – social media brings exposure to diverse issues from across the globe, and it can be hard to figure out how to be an activist for everything that’s wrong with the world (spoiler alert: it’s a lot).
On platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, many people try to spread awareness to change the way things are. For example, Swedish 15-year-old teenager Greta Thunberg has dedicated herself to fighting climate change, becoming a champion for the environment. She uses social media to spread awareness about environmental issues.
However, empty post-sharing won’t stop the ice caps from melting – that’s why Thunberg also began protesting, while suggesting ways of making positive changes that could help the environment.
Climate change is an issue that affects everyone, every day, whether they realize it or not, and it makes sense to focus on such a universal issue. However, it can be more difficult to spread awareness or to raise support for charities involving issues that are perhaps not quite as widespread.
For example, many posts are circulating Instagram and Twitter right now about the conflict in Sudan. It’s hard to look at an issue that is so far from our town, to see such suffering, and not feel helpless. Unlike climate change, small actions like turning off the heat, or bringing a recyclable cup to a café aren’t going to help the people struggling there. However, it’s still important to raise awareness about the conflict, even though it’s so far away.
The Sudanese government has cut off its citizens’ access to the Internet. People living there literally don’t have the ability to be asking the international community for aid.
There are similar issues going on in Yemen, where the Internet is partitioned with part being controlled by the Saudi-backed government, and half by Houthi rebels. Both parts of the Internet are highly regulated and censored.
This means that if people around the world are going to hear about issues and conflicts in these types of situations, the awareness has to be spread externally.
It is possible to help people in those countries – by making donations to UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, and the Red Cross. These non-denominational organizations take donations online, so it’s possible to share links to their donation pages on social media, making it possible for anyone with a few spare dollars, even all the way in Maple Ridge, to help support people living in conflict zones.
That being said, there are, sadly, those who abuse social media, saying that they will put money towards a cause in exchange for shares or likes. In some cases, this can be legitimate.
However, Instagram, where such posts appear most frequently, does not give money to content creators, no matter how many likes, shares, or views their videos receive.
There’s nothing wrong with simply raising awareness. Not everyone is able to donate time or money directly to a cause, and the more people who are aware of an issue, the easier it becomes to resolve.
However, when it comes to social media, it pays to make sure that awareness has the ability to effect meaningful change. The next time you share a post about an issue, try putting the link to a reputable charity’s donation page in your bio.
Young people are always change-bringers. It’s part of growing up.
Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook – let social media be your sword. Champion your causes well.
Marlowe Evans is a student at the
University of New Brunswick from Maple Ridge who writes about