Holdgruen: On the importance of social media activism

Being media literate can often be a blessing and a curse. As a feminist, it is a constant struggle to browse through news headlines or social media without rolling my eyes or shaking my head. Although our college-aged generation is becoming more aware of and educated about social movements, it seems the mainstream media does not complement the increasingly progressive ideas of their majority demographic—us.

As college students, we must be aware that our Internet and media presence does more than just preoccupy our time and entertain our bored minds. Our blog posts or tweets can be read by people all over the world––in no other form of media can this be achieved, and for our generation to have such proficient web skills is extremely valuable. We must hone these skills and use them to express our opinions and criticisms of mainstream media.

Sexism, racism and homophobia are the major social issues that our generation cares to discuss and eventually demolish. It is not unknown that the media are generally ignorant of and exacerbate these issues through actions such as the misrepresentation of minorities in television or the objectification of women in advertising.

On the Geneseo campus, we have, among many others, Women’s Action Coalition, Students Against Social Injustice and Pride Alliance. These organizations take students’ passions and ideas and create events to educate others about social problems. We share our knowledge with fellow students, staff and the campus. This reach can significantly increase, however, with the use of social media activism.

A significant number of students participated in a march and demonstration for victims of police brutality relating to the controversial events in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. The impassioned group shared photos on multiple social media platforms, designed hashtags for Twitter and gathered attention from outside eyes to watch what these students were doing in this small college town that was a part of a bigger picture.

These social media interactions were acknowledged by non-Geneseo friends, family and the extended friend circles of both. Being a part of a larger, nationwide movement was easily connected through social media and it emphasized the message of the march. During this time, the mainstream media did not portray solidarity movements in a positive light. As students, we combated this image and instead released our own opinions on the issue to the world. Criticism of mainstream media seeped into the message of the movement with the bombardment of images online of our efforts and support.

We need to continually bring this connection to the outside world to our campus and outside readers, tweeters and followers with whom we would not usually interact. This may be through an intricately organized march of hundreds of students, or even just a share of a controversial article on Facebook.

Media can purposely shape how an audience perceives an image; therefore we can shape media to perform in a way that fulfills our intentions. We must use social media to start virtual conversations that bring together our criticism of media and social institutions learned from our time at Geneseo to those uniformed individuals outside of our inclusive, liberal circle.