Social Media x Social Justice: The Power of Shared Experience

Kelsey Formost

09 Jun 2020 · 3 min read

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The world came together this week in support of ‘Black Lives Matter’, a social and political movement speaking out against police brutality and systematic racism in America and beyond.

The rapid spread of public support and shows of solidarity are propelled in large part by the increased use of social media and the power of shared experience. So far, 18 countries and all 50 States in the USA have participated in marches and demonstrations for racial equality, making this the largest-ever civil rights protest in our world’s history.

The highly-publicized recent killings of Black Americans Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have brought the conversation of racism and allyship to the forefront of public discourse, igniting a palpable demand for justice and change. And social media has played an inextricable role in the amplification of the messages of activists, protestors, and participants from around the country and the globe.

This first week of June 2020, just two weeks after the killing of George Floyd, the hashtag #blacklivesmatter has been used 21.2 million times on Instagram. To put that number in perspective, in December 2014, nearly five months after Eric Garner was killed by a police officer in New York, the number of tweets tagged with #blacklivesmatter peaked at 146,000.

In addition to the overwhelming surge of posts featuring #blacklivesmatter content and its viral hashtag, last Tuesday, June 2nd, a social media movement social dubbed #blackouttuesday swept social channels. ‘Blackout Tuesday’ became a period during which non-Black creators posted a solid black square on their feeds to show solidarity, and pledged to mute their content in favor of amplifying Black voices online.

One week later, we’re looking back at what’s transpired so far as a result of the online uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement, and exploring how social media continues to serve as a catalyst for social justice beyond digital channels.

Sharing Experiences

As the world sees, engages, and shares the stories being broadcast around the globe, a snowball effect has taken place wherein more and more people are opening up about their experiences.

With so many of those marching using social media to share their experiences, many people who either cannot or have not joined in demonstrations are able to view what’s occurring.

But beyond the protests, many members of the Black community are sharing their personal stories. Black artists, policymakers, business owners, activists and community members are speaking out and calling for unity, allyship, justice and change.

Sharing Resources

Social media has also become a catalyst for sharing and engaging in community efforts. With many looking for learning materials, places to donate, and relevant content, people are turning to influencers - both those they already follow as well as new discoveries- for resources.

Instagram saw a huge increase in the use of interactive features like ‘Swipe Up’ links and donate buttons, with creators encouraging followers to sign petitions, give to charitable organizations, send pre-written email campaigns, and download content related to the movement.

Two weeks after George Floyd’s death, the demands for justice being shared on social media are starting to materialize in the form of real change.

Sharing Change

Among the direct results of the public demand for action include elections of pro-Black Lives Matter policymakers, the announcement of the Minneapolis City Council’s intent to disband its Police Department and invest in community-led public safety, a re-investment of $100 million in government funds into communities of color in LA, the re-opening of Breonna Taylor’s murder case, and an increase from 3rd degree to 2nd degree murder for the officer responsible for killing George Floyd.

Additionally, many conversations being held online right now center on changes being made on a more immediate and personal level. There’s a call for non-Black community members to make an active effort to engage in self-reflection and education on the subjects of racism, diversity, and inclusion in hopes an open and ongoing dialogue- and of course, real change- will follow.

The Power of Human Connection

Perhaps one of the most vital takeaways from this movement is the incredible power of human connection. Whether it’s online through social media, standing beside others in solidarity, or even communicating with one’s own family, when human beings are presented with an opportunity to connect, progress is made.

At this time in our history when we’re physically distanced, we need more opportunities to connect to one another. Social Media can offer an outlet, a platform, and a catalyst for human connection and social justice.

To learn more about the Black Lives Matter Movement and to see a list of resources and organizations that can help, please click here.

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