Positivity + Social Media
Social media is such a big part of everyday life for nearly everyone in the world, especially Millenials and Gen-Z who have overtaken Instagram, Twitter and TikTok. People often criticize social media for being a negative and toxic space with unrealistic expectations, especially for young people, but what about the positive aspects of it? It is undeniable that social media can often be a toxic place by influencing daily users to compare themselves to social media influencers, but there are also multiple positive benefits. These benefits include giving users a platform to express their creativity, connecting people that would otherwise never have connected, and plays an important role in raising awareness and promoting solidarity around a movement. Social media networks, areas traditionally dominated by young people, are the new platform for organizational efforts for issues with people becoming more educated about movements, but not in the traditional way.
We saw how powerful social media is in raising awareness during the Black Lives Matter protests in summer 2020. Social media platforms have served as an avenue for movements like BLM to gain traction, and this was made clear last summer when millions of people across the globe came together in solidarity over this one issue. Users showed their support for the movement by consistently sharing the stories of African American men and women and sharing their experiences at local and national protests. I have always been knowledgeable of the Black Lives Matter Movement, but I had never seen so many people come together in solidarity with one issue. That was made possible because of social media. I am sure that if social media was not around today, none of these movements would have as much coverage and impact as they do today. Before we used social media as much as we do today, movements like BLM were being thrown under the rug and forgotten about. For example, the #blacklivesmatter hashtag has been around since July 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting-death of African American teen Trayvon Martin, but did not get nearly as much attention as it did in summer 2020. This could maybe be explained because of the pandemic causing tension amongst American citizens already, but it can definitely be attributed to the fact that social media is used by a larger number of people than it was in 2013. The BLM movement has been alive since 2013 but never given the coverage it deserved. Now as the 21st century grows and expands on social networking, people are more informed at higher rates making the movement very well known.
Another example of how social media can be credited for raising awareness about a topic is the impact it had on the 2020 presidential election. The Washington Post notes that the 2020 presidential election had a record turnout of 66.3%, the highest voter turnout since the 1900s. This record turnout can be attributed to how social media was used leading up to the election, with social media being used to reach the youth vote. Social media was used leading up to the election to educate the users of the upcoming election and encouraging them to go out and vote. I personally did not go a day without seeing a post on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook the months leading up to the presidential election that wasn’t related to the election in some way. Whether it was just a post telling users to go and vote or a post educating the users about the two candidates, social media was used in a way like never before, resulting in Donald Trump losing his presidency because of how many young people were influenced to go and vote through social media.
There are definitely a lot of negative aspects of social media, such as constantly seeing a perfect version of every user leading one to compare themselves to another, causing mental health problems. But one cannot deny that social media is extremely powerful in bringing people together in solidarity with an issue and giving attention to issues that may not be widely known or shared by traditional media. I struggle a lot with remembering that everyone isn’t as perfect as they portray themselves to be on social media and often view social media as a toxic place. But then I remind myself of all the positive aspects of social media, like meeting new people with similar interests and connecting with others on important issues. Hate it or love it, social media serves as a powerful tool for people and movements to share their stories and reach new audiences across the globe.
Written by: Nata Mushkudiani