Over the past two weeks, and now currently entering the third week, people all over the United States and other countries have been protesting the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others people of color due to police brutality. These Black Lives Matter movements have not only taken the form of protests but also through petitions, emails to government officials, donations, and also social media. The latter of the four has been a major foundation in the building of political opinions for the younger generations.
The majority of their platform and their voice is found on social media.
Young Millennials and Generation Z have grown up in a digital age of technology; almost their entirety of their lives have taken place through online usage, whether that be on Facebook on a desktop computer or on Instagram in the palm of your hands. I, although being on the older side of Generation Z, remember a glimpse of when I received my first phone in fourth grade, thinking I was so cool with my Nokia Flip phone. The fact of the matter is everything is online, and while there can be many negatives to social media (such as cyberbullying, negative portrayal of body image, etc.), the recent events have shed light on how social media could be used to spread awareness.
Every time that I have looked on Instagram in the past two weeks, I have seen people spreading educational awareness on police brutality and systemic racism. Many of the posts or Instagram stories revolve around ways in which you can educate yourself on the aforementioned topics. “How to stay informed,” “Free Things You Can Do to Help the Black Lives Matter Movement,” the list just goes on and on. People also have spread awareness of countless others who have fallen victim to racism to where they lost their lives.
Even on TikTok people are able to spread educational awareness. A personal favorite of mine is @rynnstar on the aforementioned app. She often will explain stats regarding police brutality, the history of blacks in America, and many other informative topics. She answers questions that people have to educate the public about the longstanding racism in our country. One of her most popular videos involved her creating a song discussing police brutality statistics; the song has a catchy beat and has been remixed many times already, amassing over 1.2 million views on the original video alone.
And social media can spread to a much vaster audience. People will often watch or read what aligns with their views. Yes, you can follow accounts that align as well on social media, but it is also used to connect with friends or family. If they are sharing some educational post on systemic racism, you are able to read it and learn. While aligning with your views, you can also see the views of everyone.
The issue is most news outlets seem to have some bias. Social media can also have the same effect; yet where they differ lies in what is being portrayed. With social media, whether it be Snapchat, Facebook or Instagram, people can share almost anything they want. News programs and sites will show what best suits their audience, what will get them the most views.
For example, I happen to search “Protests” on Google. What initially comes up involves updates on the protests occurring around the world. I click on the first link, CNN -- “Black Lives Matter protests across the US and World.” There are actually a wide variety of updates the website has, but where it lacks is a personal level. Many of the updates pertain to how television shows are stopping production due to the protests, the Boston Red Sox apologizing for racist incidents, where protests have occurred, etc.. This is not to say that these issues are not important, but it lacks a certain level of personal experience.
Social Media can differ in this way. People can share how they have personally fell victim to racism, what happened to them, what they did in a situation. Big news does not cover that. And in this moment especially, people are willing to share their stories even more than ever before. People are showing the real-time moments of what is happening in the world. George Floyd’s own murder was shared on social media and that is why the movement became as big as it has been; even people across the globe are protesting as part of the movement because of the injustice.
The reality is that these issue are part of the society that we live in and have been building up for years. Racism was not solved by the Civil Rights Act of 1965. The tensions have been building up for decades and people are attempting to make a change, for all people to finally feel as though they are equal. For the younger generations, social media seems to be that stepping stone into how to best handle the situation, to take action, to have a voice. And these generations are the future, they demand change.