The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Everything By Ezra: Social Media and Activism


This is the second in a series of writings about effective activism, as part of Everything by Ezra. Keep your eye out next month for the coming edition.

Historically, the press has played a significant role in pretty much every major social movement. There was the anti-colonial Pennsylvania Gazette during the American Revolution, Fredrick Douglass’s abolitionist newspaper The North Star and the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies’ The Common Cause, among others. There have always been hundreds of leaflets and zines in every social movement.

Over time, as the internet emerged, print publications became less popular and websites like the Animal Liberation Press Office, the socialist Liberation News and Black Lives Matter filled the same niche. But these websites are all run by groups of dedicated activists. While the things they publish are accessible for anyone to read, it’s much harder for members of the public to actually publish their own ideas through these kinds of websites.

That’s where social media comes into play. Social media has filled much of the same niche that was historically filled by radical publications and then websites. It has allowed everyone to amplify their voices, to feel like they are heard by a broader audience. And that’s important. But posting on social media, in and of itself, is not a form of activism.

I would say the same is true of any publication, they are not forms of activism. They are a means of spreading information, which is a crucial first-step to making change, but does not, in and of itself, bring about any change. What creates change are the actions that people take as a result of obtaining that information.

In many modern social justice movements, there’s an emphasis on social media. There’s an attitude that if you post something on your Instagram story you’re creating change, and that if you raise awareness, you’re creating change. I don’t think that’s true. As I wrote about in the last edition of Everything, by Ezra, not everybody needs to know that there’s a problem for change to take place. Awareness is important, but it isn’t always necessary.

I could post a million things on my story about how terrible police brutality, fossil fuels or animal abuse are. But the reality is that a couple hundred high school students seeing a post about a societal issue won’t change anything.

This is true anywhere, but it’s especially true at a school like Brookline High School, which is so politically homogeneous. The people in our social media networks tend to be people we’re friends with and, as a result, we’re more likely to share common views with. So, the chances that a post on social media is even going to challenge someone’s thinking, much less change their mind, are very low. And even if the post does change someone’s mind, it still doesn’t do anything to address the problem.

But there is a time and a place for social media as a tool for activism. I think that time and place lies in organizing others to take action.

Any time I post anything on social media related to social justice issues, I try to post it in the context of: here’s the time and date of a protest you can go to, or here’s a phone number and a script you can read to contact your representative.

Social media is a powerful tool for spreading messages, and one we should utilize. But if we want to be effective activists, it is of the utmost importance that social media remains merely a starting point for our messages and ideas.

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