Youth and activism:
Is social media a help or a hindrance?
Gracie Wallis, Seamount College (TY)
Young people in Ireland have a long way to go in terms of how active they are when it comes to making a change. However, this is not to say that all young people have no interest in current affairs or global problems, in fact quite the opposite is true. But the reason, in my opinion, for our lack of action is mainly down to how the problems are presented to us.
In Scotland, on the 16th of september 2014, a referendum was held to determine whether Scotland would gain independence from Britan or not. The result of this election was negative but what was really astounding was just how active and aware the youth of Scotland was. There were teenagers of sixteen campaigning on radio programmes, speaking about the upcoming referendum with eloquence and an informed tone which was phenomenal for people so young. I believe their strength of opinion came from a feeling that this issue was something which directly concerned them, therefore they felt passionately about it. They were fighting for their country, their system, their independence.
It seems as though youth in Ireland has very strong opinions on issues which directly concern them. However when it comes to trying to make a change, or even being aware of issues outside of Ireland or Europe, a lot of people hear the problems and think to themselves; “Well, yes, this is terrible, but what can I do to help?”. Often times, this question is met with solutions which are either too small and leave you feeling as though you aren’t making much of a difference or too big to take on at all. Other times, there is not even enough interest to ask a question as simple as that, because of the way the issues are shown to us.
We learn about these vast problems, such as poverty and global warming in the same class that we learn about sedimentary rocks or the development of an oxbow lake! We’re taught the facts about the global predicaments but there is very little emphasis placed on trying to find (or learn about) realistic solutions. Therefore, young people have developed a overfamiliarity to these issues and they no longer seem shocking but just one more topic to revise.
This is where social media steps in. Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Tumblr and Instagram are just a few examples of apps which make information on global problems and peers opinions very accessible. However, a drawback to the poularity of social media is that peoples attention spans are becoming shorter and shorter as they are constantly distracted.
For example, a young person might see a long status written by a friend on facebook about a topic they have no previous knowledge of, they would most likely not bother to read all of it. We are becoming so used to things grabbing our attention that we’re becoming lazy about challenging our understanding of issues unless the information about them is concise, simplified and handed to us without needing to search for it.
This is why short, seven second Vines or even illustrations with captions are more effective ways of raising awareness and inspiring activism than a long winded article would be. The drawback to this is that sometimes it’s necessary to understand an issue in more detail than those mediums can convey.
In conclusion I would say that social media is a good platform for sharing thoughts and opinions, but that there are drawbacks to it. We are a generation of passionate young people who want to have our voices heard, the only thing we need to recognise now is that in order to do that we must take action.
“If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.” - Daniel Quinn.
Let’s not let our ignorance and lack of action lead to our gradual collapse but instead rise to the challenge, inform ourselves and make a change.