With the recent protests in Chile where more than a million people took the streets to protest inequality, it reminds me of the strong impact social media has had on the social movements around the globe.
With the popularity and growth of social media’s impact on our lives has come more and more conversation. And with that has come movements that have reached sizes that were once impossible, The impact of these movements are ongoing, and the only real thing we know is that the impact of social media is real and apparent in these circumstances.
Americans know the prevalence of hashtags that have started social movements, such as #MeToo, #NeverAgain, and others.
Hashtags allow for social media users, specifically on Twitter, to tag their messages with a word or few words that relates to what they’ve said. By adding the message, other users can search for messages that include the hashtag. When tweets using certain words or phrases are common for a period of time, they will “trend” on Twitter’s explore page. This allows more people to see whats popular on Twitter and can spread the message quicker and to more people than would’ve seen it before.
This has allowed Twitter to become a megaphone for those individuals trying to get their message across, as well as connect people with the same views.
All of these features makes having conversations and setting up protests much easier than ever before.
Simple features that are introduced greatly affect how these messages can be distributed.
Facebook introduced an Arabic version of the site in 2009, in attempt to capture the 250 million Arabic speakers around the globe.
According to an article at ForeignPolicy.com in 2009, “Facebook recently launched an Arabic version of its popular social networking site in a bid to expand its presence among the 250 million Arabic-speaking people of the world. Facebook enlisted the help of 850 Arabic speakers in the site’s design, asking them to discuss and vote on the best translations.”
Little did they know, a social media tool that was accessible to Arabic speakers was just what many protestors needed.
In what is now called Arab Spring, large scale protests were launched in opposition of the dictators in the Middle East.
Many of the protests were aided through the use of social media. The ability to stay anonymous while voicing their opinions and organizing protests was unavailable, until Facebook came around. Now, dissatisfied citizens could link with opposition groups without risking public meet ups.
“Even though these other tools played their parts, Facebook was on a plane of its own. Foetus calls it “the GPS for this revolution” — quite a helpful analogy. Facebook is what guided the protests…” according to The Atlantic.
While Instagram may be limited in terms of types of content postable, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have it’s hand in social movements as well.
In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge took over Instagram, as thousands of people participated in dumping ice cold water on their heads and challenging their friends to do the same.
While it seemed like nonsense, the challenge was developed to raise awareness for ALS. The ice water was supposed to be a simulation of the effects of the disease, and people were encouraged to donate to the ALS Foundation in most videos. The challenge resulted in $115 million in donations.
Social Media has quickly transformed from a luxury to a commodity as it has grown. While businesses and influencers have finally started to appreciate the market it holds, social organizers have been capitalizing on it.
As the world becomes more divisive, the ability to continue the conversation online can not be understated,