Social media activism is #notenough

Political engagement needs to spread past the screen

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Being politically woke has become a trend. There’s nothing wrong with staying informed about political issues and spreading awareness to promote a movement’s popularity. If anything, this should be encouraged.
However sharing politically charged posts on social media without partaking in any form of civil engagement has become the norm, not the exception.

Without a doubt, advertising a political movement on social media can yield universal effects. The #MeToo movement grew when women spoke up about their stories on social media, creating a global web of interconnected experiences and stories.

#BlackLivesMatter became a widely known phrase, promoting protests against police brutality and racial bias.
“Because of what people post on social media, I’ve become so much more aware of different political statements. People can share their ideas across a broad platform and reach an audience that isn’t limited to their close friends and family,” said senior Justin Gorodetsky.

Following an especially controversial issue, such as the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh or the shooting at Parkland High School, many students have taken to social media to share their opinions.

Despite publicly announcing personal thoughts on a particular subject, it’s rare that that same person will act to instigate change. This pattern persists at New Trier, and senior Hannah Kadin noted that many students only seem interested in the topics that are relevant to them and “postable.”

“People got really riled up over the walkout last year to protest gun violence but it was basically just one day of people acting like they cared about something. Nobody ever talked about or pretended to care about it again,” said Kadin.

It’s understandable that certain hot-button topics may attract more awareness. Although these topics are perhaps some of the most significant it’s important not just to post about them to merely seem cool and knowledgeable in front of your friends.

Senior Josie Ewing said that although she doesn’t blame people for becoming more outspoken after certain events trigger widespread debate, “Only talking about political events when they are popular commodifies political activism.”

The types of issues that are usually the subjects of Instagram stories are also an indication of how politics in social media has become a trend.

Kadin noticed that when Kavanaugh was confirmed, nearly every girl she knew posted something on social media.

But following the shooting of Laquan McDonald by a police officer that prompted protests all over Chicago towards the end of summer, there were hardly, if any, social media posts by NT students.

“People choose easy movements to latch on to. It’s easy to dislike a supreme court justice who sexually assaulted somebody, but when it comes to other things where the victims are either not the people posting about it or not as easy to sympathize with, people don’t focus their attentions on it,” said Ewing.

Considering that we live in a country that takes pride in its democracy and is brimming with critical political issues to discuss, the need for civil engagement in our society is incredibly relevant. Engagement can be as simple as registering to vote or as involved as volunteering for a campaign and attending a protest.

“There are so many ways for people to become politically involved, and even though I think it’s great that people are sharing political issues over social media, they should also do something more than just posting a story on Instagram,” said Gorodetsky.