By Brett Zielke
The past several weeks have seen significant unrest throughout not only the United States, but across the globe. The murder of George Floyd has galvanized the world into action against systemic racism to a degree that has not been seen since the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s. However, the reach of these protests and demonstrations can largely be attributed to one tool: social media.
Much has been made over the years of the negative powers that social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter can yield. However, in the face of serious outrage, it can serve as a way of bringing people together, helping them to focus their emotions and cultivate a unified and powerful voice.
People aren’t just using these platforms anymore to share their personal opinions blindly, but helping to prepare action, connecting with others through hashtags, and sharing rally locations and videos. We’ve seen people share their own incidents of discrimination and spark running conversations on both Twitter and Instagram, uniting people through shared painful experiences.
This is the way of uniting for Gen Z, not having one singular voice that can be silenced, but several, all saying the same thing in unison. On June 2, this meant saying nothing. Across Instagram, people and organizations that stood side by side with discriminated minorities showed it by sharing a black post on their Instagram accounts, accompanied with #blackouttuesday. Roughly 28 million people took part, and while the full effects that this had will be difficult to fully gauge for some time, there is little doubt that it helped to push the movement to the forefront of public consciousness.
The key now is being able to transfer that social media posting from a trend into tangible support for the movement, which in the past has been a concern with similar social issues. However, in this instance there is an increased likelihood of monetary support, as well as an increased level of engagement from the white majority as well. At the very least, this could result in more education.
Social media has often been criticized in these such moments for being a lazy way for people to get involved, without actually doing anything truly supportive. Commenting and getting into arguments with strangers online does not really take much time out of a person’s day. However, we are finally seeing now with the Black Lives Matter movement, that it is not just minorities who are involved in physical protesting, but young white people as well. They are working to educate themselves on their own inherent advantages that they likely hadn’t realized before and reach out through these channels to communicate with the leaders of these groups. Perhaps we are finally starting to see what the true, positive powers of social media are.