Ethical Living

To what extent is social media enabling stronger activism?

by Amelia Field

Social media, within this day and age, has managed to permeate into all areas of life, personal and political. The amount of time dedicated to it, therefore, leads to it having a large impact on our views of the world.

Social media influencers have recently recognised just how far their influence spans which has led to them adopting a much more active role within their platforms.

The first way in which this has been seen is within changes to diets and lifestyles. The market for fitness and diet products has always been relatively successful, but recently we have seen even the biggest celebrities supporting diet brands and subscribing to lifestyle challenges. For example, we have seen the Kardashians promoting diet suppressing lollypops or so-called “flat tummy” teas. These adverts have garnered much scrutiny as some argue they promote unhealthy lifestyles. Within a more positive way, we have seen many social media influencers adopting such challenges as Veganuary, sharing photos of their meals and the progress that their body has made in the process. Due to the personal connection that followers feel with influencers, they may envy their lifestyles and because of the copycat nature of social media, encourage more of a healthy lifestyle amongst followers. This can be suggested to be extremely beneficial as it strays away from traditional notions of how to achieve beauty through crazy diets and unhealthy habits presented to us through magazines, and focuses on bettering one’s life in a positive way. Campaigns such as Veganuary create a community atmosphere to living a healthy lifestyle where members can share photographs and build each other up.

Another area that social media influencers have taken to promoting are political issues. Traditionally, celebrities have been encouraged to stay clear of politics in a public setting as it can often lead to some sticky situations and a loss of support, particularly for those who hold extreme views. Now we have seen a large shift in engagement within politics — especially on social media. Celebrities and influencers have adopted a more engaged active role, such as getting involved in campaigns or attending marches and posting about this online. A trend I have noticed is that often these influencers are less involved in politics assigned to a certain party and more involved in general political issues such as Brexit or climate change rallies.

A cause which has garnered a lot of attention is the gun control debate within America. Influencers have taken to their platforms to protest and gather money to support gun control. This often serves as the most influential way that influencers can gain attention and aim to make change happen. Their large following has led many causes to now even hire social media influencers to promote their messages. This mirrors the celebrity endorsement seen in the past by other causes. I would suggest that this form of activism is extremely beneficial for the younger generation. This is because for many years we have seen low involvement of young people within politics with young voter turnout being surprisingly low.

An increase in activism of social media influencers has led to much more involvement of young people with issues they hold close to their hearts, such as climate change, rights for LGBTQ+ people and gun control in the USA. I know that in my situation, social media is a great source of news and information on political issues and seeing those who you look up to supporting these causes can lead to a complete turnaround in how young people view politics, as not just something that is for adults.

As mentioned earlier, many influencers choose to focus on one specific issue that they believe they can contribute to. An example of this is the 20-year-old Chella Man who is a deaf, transgender artist living in New York City. He has taken large steps for the deaf community speaking at conferences and contributing to causes that aim to help deaf people. He is also one of the many faces of the transgender community aiming to make changes. Despite these characteristics, he is first and foremost an artist expressing his body dysmorphia through painting.

As well as encouraging young people to speak on issues they may not have previously considered, it could even be argued that simply existing and being proud of one’s identity on this platform is a form of activism and helps a lot of people who may be in similar situations. In Chella’s case, by simply going about everyday life and presenting a positive relationship with his partner he is acting as a role model.

With this increase in activism within social media platforms, we witness an involvement from the younger generation never seen before. Through promoting of wide ranges of issues, the public is becoming informed on important and political topics, showing that influencers are transforming social media into a vehicle for change.