Millions received news of the 2014 Ferguson shooting via Twitter before the news crews could even arrive on scene. Even months after the tragedy, the tags #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter continued to grace millions of feeds, preventing the event from ever being forgotten. Recently, #WhyIDidntReport spread quickly in reaction to Trump’s doubt of the legitimacy of Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations.
Social media activism plays a huge role in publicizing today’s justice movements. Yet, with the ubiquity of social media feeds as a part of everyone’s lives, more and more people are replacing credible news sources with platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Many take the morning Twitter scroll to be more credible than it actually is. According to Pew Research Center, 69 percent of Americans believe social media can help politicians pay attention to social issues and lead to social change. However, the study also found that about one in four adults have shared inaccurate news on social media and being more interesting and novel, fake news and false claims have reached viewers six times faster than the truth.
Another caveat of social media activism, as efficient and widespread it may be, is the illusion of change. For example, there has been zero change to gun control laws, even though #NeverAgain, #Enough, and multiple other hashtags each get millions of views per day. However, others counter that every shared post can raise awareness to issues and state necessary conversations.
So far, several iconic movements have sprung out of hashtag haven and into the physical world, such as #MeToo. The movement achieved its goals with the ME TOO bill, which allows workers to sue their employers for sexual harassment and discrimination. #MeToo is a perfect example of the potential for real, tangible change, and serves as an inspiration to other social media movements as well.
The interconnectedness of human society in the 21st century enables it to impact more people at a rate unseen before, ushering in an era of rapid change and hopefully, growth.