By SYDNEY GAW
In light of recent events, including numerous protests, political debates, natural disasters, and other civil disturbances, there has been an international call to action for increased advocacy for important human rights issues.
Since the beginning of quarantine, technology has had an ever-increasing presence in our lives, even more so for younger generations. While we were stuck inside our homes, social media became a major source of news as well as a platform where influencers could voice their standpoint on current issues.
After the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, people all over the world took to Instagram and Twitter to speak up about police brutality and systemic racism. Following the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, thousands of people shared links to donate to the Lebanese Red Cross. During Pride Month, countless infographics and donation sites were posted to help garner support and spread awareness for the LGBTQ+ community.
While young people are often criticized for their constant use of technology, the use of social media for social justice advocacy gives teenagers the opportunity to express their opinions on critical topics and advocate for societal reform. To some, resharing posts and stories on Instagram provides a better source of recent events and information than news outlets can, especially when it comes to younger audiences like Gen Z.
Sites like Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook have become abundant with young activists who use their platform to discuss topics like racism, mental health, and gender equality.
“Spreading information about issues online has definitely helped me to educate myself [and] reinforce my own morals,” sophomore Ellis Kim said. “It’s really important for people to advocate for what they believe in, but especially younger people because we’re the new generation. The current issues and events happening today are most likely still going to be issues when we’re older and have the right to vote.”
Not only has social media been an outlet for students to raise awareness for certain issues, but Gen Z has also allegedly been using platforms like TikTok to organize rallies and protests. The most notable case of this was the derailment of President Trump’s reelection rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where hundreds of TikTok users and K-pop fans claimed to be responsible for the dismal attendance at Trump’s rally. After the event was announced on June 11, young TikTokers reserved over a million tickets to Trump’s rally—and didn’t show up.
However, with the influx of information being spread through social media, it is important to be aware of a source’s credibility and accuracy. While there are many well-intentioned activists online, there are also companies and groups trying to spread certain ideas based on a political agenda. The continual spread of false information can lead to controversy over events that did not really occur or were falsely perceived.
“Social media is a great way of spreading awareness because of the various audiences it extends to, but at the same time it’s very easy for misinformation to spread” Kim said. “There have been times where I saw something and reposted it without really looking into it and then realized it was inaccurate or contrary to what I believed in.”
This inconvenience, while often unintentional, tends to happen frequently on social media. A recent instance of this was when pictures of several mailboxes tied up and seemingly headed for the dump went viral on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit. People rapidly began to repost these images along with captions like “#savetheusps” or “#EndVoterSupression.” After saying that he opposed funding for the United States Postal Service in an interview, many people already suspected that President Trump was attempting to manipulate mail-in votes for the 2021 election, and a viral picture of tied up mailboxes just convinced people further.
However, this turned out to be a false allegation. Not only was the picture totally unrelated to the president’s opinion towards the U.S.P.S., it was merely a photo of something that happened regularly. The stack of mailboxes were actually being moved for maintenance purposes, an action done frequently and confirmed by the U.S. Postal Service.
As scary as this was for many people who thought the mailbox situation was an attempt to suppress mail-ballot voters, it is important to note that information shared online can be untrue or biased. Only then can we better our understanding of current events through the use of modern technology.