Forum for student expression since 1977

The Patriot Press

Forum for student expression since 1977

The Patriot Press

Forum for student expression since 1977

The Patriot Press


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Social media as tool for activism should be carefully wielded

Fahrenheit 451 warned us about the danger technology presents to our society, and now it’s no longer fiction. While social media is used by many to connect with friends and meet new people, there have been issues concerning the lack of restrictions and accountability on what people can say online, leading to real-life consequences.

The intersection of politics and social media has led to the creation of social media activism, which means spreading awareness of political and social justice issues or policies through online posts, fundraisers, or campaigns, for example. 

However, social media activism is often performative and mainly used by people to make themselves look morally good rather than actually spreading awareness and empowering others to take action.

Political activists on social media often lack rational reasoning and evidence, opting to spread misinformation quickly rather than take time to learn about an issue and meaningfully take action. In a 2020 study by the Pew Research Center, 76% of Americans believed the statement “social media makes people think they are making a difference when they really aren’t” described social media somewhat or very well. 

The 2020 BLM movement was the biggest mobilization of a movement from social media. People shared resources to learn more about the movement’s history and find protests in their area. However, a significant number of people, especially celebrities and influencers, went to protests and filmed videos or did entire photo shoots to post on their social media rather than meaningfully make a difference. It’s good to share your activism, but what they were doing was clearly performative. Even though they “took action” by attending a protest, it was only to make themselves look like they were doing a good deed and prove to others they were there. 

As a result of the BLM movement, the idea of “defund the police” was promoted across social media, especially Instagram and Twitter. However, those promoting this idea did not realize the consequences. Many cities, including New York City, Minneapolis, and our own city of Seattle, majorly cut funding of the police after pressure from “informed” citizens. However, these cities have abandoned the idea of investing in alternative community-based programs. 

Now, rampant crime and drug use have ravaged the streets of Seattle, scaring away both locals and tourists. It is no longer safe to walk in Seattle because of the constant fear of an attack and the lack of police response due to budget cuts without significant and effective alternatives. Social media activism has fueled the ideas that led to these real life consequences. No one has been held accountable for the misinformation that was spread about defunding the police.

Another side of political activism on social media is political influencers. The Q-Anon movement that gained traction in the midst of the 2020 election was heavily promoted on social media. Often called a conspiracy theory, Q-Anon is based around the idea of a child sex-trafficking ring run by liberal politicians and celebrities, claiming Donald Trump as the savior of those children. The endless videos and promotion have sucked many into the conspiracy and led to a lack of rationality in their thoughts, leading many critics to go as far as to call it a cult. 

Social media activism has even gone as far as young people justifying the attacks on the U.S. on 9/11. Multiple videos with millions of views empathize with terrorist and Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden after his “Letter to America” from over 20 years ago has spread across TikTok, relating it to so-called American imperialism and the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

However, only certain parts of his letter are discussed in these videos, but other excluded parts talk about wanting to implement an Islamic state in all countries in the world with restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of speech, as well as multiple mentions of LGBTQ+ people and non-Muslims deserving death. Social media activists have misconstrued the “Letter to America” to mean something that it doesn’t mean. It had a purpose that was much, much worse. Justifying a terrorist would have been unheard of in the years immediately following 9/11, but the fact that social media activism has led to this is astonishing. 

Taken within a broader context, it’s quite concerning that about 32%, nearly a third of Americans ages 18-29 regularly get their news from TikTok, making up 14% of all Americans. And that number continues increasing from 2020. TikTok and many other social media networks are not reliable news sources, so while it is faster to send information and spread awareness through these platforms, it’s also much easier to spread misinformation and manipulate the facts to get people riled up and create argument rather than civil discourse. 

Ultimately, social media can be used to spread awareness and start movements that affect the real world. With that, there are real-world consequences, and we must be careful in how we take in information from online so as not to ruin our society and country.



About the Contributor
Katarzyna Nguyen
Katarzyna Nguyen, Editorial Board Member
Katarzyna Nguyen is a senior at Liberty High School and a Managing Editorial Board Member as part of the Editorial Board for the Patriot Press. In her free time, she enjoys walking her dog, listening to various genres of music, and volunteering in her community.