In recent weeks, two major crises and scandals have flooded the internet. Many of you may have seen the horrific videos of the undercover operation at Fair Oaks Farm, a dairy farm in Fair Oaks, Indiana. These videos show the deplorable conditions at the farm, where cows are beaten and treated in a truly disgusting way. Hoards of people, especially members of Generation Z, who more commonly and consistently use social media, have shared the video, spreading awareness in the hope of putting an end to animal cruelty.

Along with the Fair Oaks scandal, a recent escalation of the protests in Sudan have caused a national crisis, with hundreds being injured and killed, homes destroyed and millions going hungry. The emergency in Sudan has swept the internet and cause outcry around the world with complaints that this human tragedy isn’t getting enough coverage. As a result, many young influencers and users of Instagram have done their part to share, post and advocate for the Sudanese people. A wave of people changed their profiles to dark blue, to demonstrate solidarity with Sudan.

It’s fantastic to see young people stand up for justice, but how does social media exposure really affect global events? Click To Tweet

It’s fantastic to see young people stand up for justice, but how does social media exposure really affect global events? Do the thousands of blue circle profiles even know what they’re advocating for? Or are they hopping on a trendy social justice “bandwagon?”

A young man named Mohammed Hashim Mattar was gunned down in early June by Sudanese security services. His favorite color and his profile on all of his social media accounts was the now well-known shade of indigo. As people around the world change their profiles to mirror his, it’s important that they know what they’re saying, and not blindly following a mass of strangers. The same goes for the undercover operation scandal at Fair Oaks Farm.

Advocacy and global reach of the scandalous video are impressive and help achieve widespread awareness, but it’s imperative that those doing the sharing are truly aware of what’s happening, and what they might do to help stop the issue. Click To Tweet

The advocacy and global reach of the scandalous video are impressive and help achieve widespread awareness, but it’s imperative that those doing the sharing are truly aware of what’s happening, and what they might do to help stop the issue.

Social Media Draws Attention Without Real Clarity

When speaking to other members of GenZ who have seen the trendy posts, many were glad the injustices were getting the attention they deserve. However, many admitted that they still weren’t totally clear what was going on in either case. Some added that though there’s more detailed information elsewhere, they appreciate how through Instagram, they can advocate and learn about a cause more easily. And feel that they have more impact because of their power to post and share. Another side of the argument though suggests the posts aren’t as effective as some believe they are.

Some teens see this type of advocacy as a growing trend on the heels of learning about causes they are fighting for. Lane Obringer, a student at Myers Park High School in Charlotte NC stated, “Although I think spreading the word about worthy issues is great, some people don’t have the greatest intentions. I’ve seen people my age post about the crisis in Sudan and it seems like they post to feel like they’ve done something, then brush the issue off.”

I’ve seen people my age post about the crisis in Sudan and it seems like they post to feel like they’ve done something, then brush the issue off. Click To Tweet

Social Media Needs Backup Action To Prompt Change

It’s important that when using social media for advocacy, members of GenZ find authentic ways that truly making an impact. Click To Tweet

It’s important that when using social media for advocacy, members of GenZ find authentic ways that truly making an impact. Some accounts donate money for reposts, which helps put value behind their advocacy. Others think that the use of social media is great, but not enough to put an end to the issues at hand. High school senior Jack Malloy commented that though he thinks the Fair Oaks Farm video is tragic to see, but necessary to force business reform. He thinks that this is only a drop in the bucket. “I don’t think people quite understand that many industrialized farms abuse their animals to the same extent that Fair Oaks Farm did. But Fair Oaks was just one of the first to have their horrific actions documented.” Jack believes that to truly help fix the problem, posting video isn’t sufficient, “ the fight against farm animal abuse can’t end with just one farm.”

There’s something to be said for the incredible reach of these posts. Issues that may have once reached small, isolated groups of people are reaching millions, around the globe. Before the call to action of the blue profile pictures, very few people were aware of the crisis in Sudan, as regular news stations were doing little to cover the issue. Now, millions of people are well aware, with popular celebrities like Rhianna and George Clooney using their social media to raise money and solicit petition signatures for the people of Sudan. As Jack said, there are still improvements to be made with the use of Instagram and social media as a whole as an effective advocacy tool, but the sheer volume and ability to connect advocates is astonishing. When interviewing GenZer Georgia Ranson, she explained that she has used social media to post about incidents like the undercover operation at Fair Oaks Farm and that she wishes she could help more than just posting. “I know that there’s more I can and should do, whether through social media or not, to be honest, I have no clue what I can actually accomplish.”

To be honest, I have no clue what I can actually accomplish. Click To Tweet

So here are a few steps that anyone, no matter what age, can accomplish in order to truly make a difference.

  1. Back up your posts with research. Don’t stop at spreading the word! Research charities and funds for the issue, whether it be a change.org site, a gofundme or anything else, by pointing your followers in a direction of change, you’ll make an impact!
  2. Look for opportunities to act. Explore the issues you’re interested in. See if you can help by volunteering, making calls, sending supplies or through other activities. Most organizations and groups that advocate for change would be happy to give you something to do and you’ll be able to physically help a cause you believe in.
  3. Go deep and move others. Be a knowledgeable and credible source for those around you. Investigate and explore global issues and causes that you feel strongly about. Use the information to intentionally inform and inspire others.

In the era of social media, and with GenZ on the rise, there’s nothing that you can’t do and little reason you can’t change the problems you see. There’s no reason you can’t advocate for what you believe and no reason that you can’t make a difference.

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