When a student opens Instagram, they find that their feed has drastically changed in the past few weeks. Instead of seeing the usual pictures of their friends smiling, they find videos of police brutality and calls for change.
Platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok have allowed students to share information regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. Posts including links to petitions to sign, links to places to donate, information on protests, sources to educate oneself, inspirational quotes and powerful videos have been shared.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, in 2018, 75 percent of teenagers aged 13-17 had a social media account. This prevalence of social media in teenagers gives students a platform catered to their age group to voice their opinions and share information with their peers. It allows for any student to show their support for the movement and put increasing pressure on officials. “Social media informs more and more people of the systematic racism and oppression people are facing everyday, and it allows people to help in several ways such as knowing where to protest, how to help others and how to educate others,” junior Liya Bogale said.
This new era of social media has helped to ignite Black Lives Matter activism. Social media only began in the early 2000s and allows for a new way to fight for equality. During the Civil Rights movement, protests had to be planned weeks in advance with telephone calls, mailings and press releases to inform supporters of the protests. Today, a simple tweet can notify thousands of a protest in only seconds, resulting in protests happening faster and with more supporters present.
However, social media is not always so glorious when people are not careful or educated on what they are posting and reading. It makes it possible for false information to be consumed by thousands and for hatred to be more easily accessed and shared. For example, the Blackout Tuesday posts on June 2 had a beneficial purpose, but with a harmful outcome. Instagram posts of a simple black square were used to represent silence on social media, showing full support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The hashtag “blackouttuesday” was used, but many simultaneously used the hashtag “blacklivesmatter.” This prevented the spread of information through the hashtag ”blacklivesmatter” by congesting it with plain black screens.
There are ways to ensure social media is being used correctly. Before posting, students should be fully aware of what the information they are posting means and they should understand the impact that their posts have. “Students should make sure they don’t just repost the first thing they see; they should make sure that what they’re posting is factual and that they are not spreading false news,” sophomore Allie Gritz said.