Facebook has 1.86 billion monthly active users as of December 31, 2016, and out of those 1.74 billion are mobile monthly active users. Now, more than ever the world is more open and connected.
10 years ago if you wanted your voice to be heard you had to be a someone - Oprah Winfrey, the Pope or a rock star. However, thanks to social media, today an average individual can amplify his voice and reach out to millions instantly. All you need is a social media account.
According to the UN, today, a bit less than a third of the world’s youth is online. Digital media is transforming the way young people interact, learn and play with the world at large. Social networks are allowing people to support and gather people for issues that they are passionate about. A classic example is the Arab Spring and youth revolutions around the world. Youth (aged 15-24) are overrepresented in the online community and they are rallying together to challenge governments, bring down or uplift consumer brands, shape the agenda, challenge governments and make politicians and celebrities accountable.
The youth today has an edge in the emerging information society driven by new technology. They are using and spread information and communication technologies at rapid speed and adapt quickly to large quantities of information. As a result information and communication technologies have become a significant factor in thedevelopment and have a crucial impact on the socio-economic-political sectors of many countries.
Governments, companies, organizations and individuals are effectively leveraging social media to connect with new audiences, build partnerships and amplify their voice.
Here are some ways in which agents of change can use social media for social advocacy:
By NGOs, Civil Society and Organizations
#sayftychat is a weekly Twitter chat organized by Sayfty, an Indian organization whose mission is to educate and empower women and girls against violence. Over the past 2.5 years and 130 Twitter chats strong, #sayftychat engages a global audience every week in discussing issues related to Violence Against Women. Topics vary from How to Engage Men and Boys in Ending Violence Against Women to concepts like Marital Rape! Followers engage, share and talk about the most taboo topics, collectively raising awareness, speaking out, connect, collaborate and providing solutions for problems that exist at their local level. #sayftychat leverages the power of social media (in this case Twitter) to engage the community and raise awareness on topics related to sexual violence and women’s right. The results of the discussion are then published as articles, use for further education, presented at events and start offline conversations.
By International Organizations like the UN
The UN now more than ever, is connected and eager to hear from you. UN Women last year started the @UNWomen4Youth Twitter handle to engage with young people from all over the world. This verified accountgrew popular and has a strong following of over 15,000 members in less than a year. Through monthly Twitter chats like #youth4genderequality, brown bag events, Facebook lives, UN Women is actively engaging with the youth, sharing their work on gender equality, hearing their inputs, voice and collaborating with them through campaigns like the SDG Action Campaign to achieve a Planet 5050 by 2030.
Social Media provides people a voice and an opportunity to express their opinions. Individuals are actively using social media platforms to raise awareness on issues they are passionate about, fundraise, express concerns and build their networks. Consumers are more connected to companies, their products, and service and it’s a win-win for all. Your flight was delayed by 6 hours, tweet about the poor service on Twitter. You witness a cop harassing an immigrant; use your phone to live-stream on Facebook. There are countless examples of how individuals are leveraging social media to speak out!
Effective use of social media has allowed politicians, government departments, ministries and Prime Ministers like Mr. Narendra Modi of India (with 41 million Facebook followers), Justin Trudeau (Canada) to engage with their citizens. Social media has provided Heads of States and their governments to engage with the citizens and hear their concerns; reach out to millions with their message and policies instantly. Social media engagement has allowed governments to be more transparent and effective in communicating with their citizens. Engaging in feedback and increasing transparency has become a crucial component of trust and advocacy, allowing governments to strengthen their positions, partnerships, and actions.
As I walked through the closing slide on the number of users on Facebook and it’s other apps, I was once again reminded of how connected the world is today (vs. 10 years ago). New media, information, and communication technologies are rapidly becoming components of activism and youth civic engagement. Thanks to social media, social advocacy has taken diverse forms. Social media is not only used for communication and coordination of youth movements, it also provides a sense of e-solidarity amongst individuals and groups with different agenda.
Citizens today are more aware of issues, problems, and solutions in various parts of the world due to social media. Social media has enabled successful connections, partnerships and capacity building for activist, thereby bringing them one step closer to their goals. While social media is great for social advocacy, care must be taken to prevent armchair activism. Let’s not forget that there are still millions of people disconnected from the World Wide Web. How do we ensure, we are reaching them? How do we ensure that the awareness on keeping yourself safe reaches the most marginalized young girls living in rural Bihar, India? Yes, social media helps us reach millions, but as activists let’s not forget the other millions that are still relying on traditional media like newspapers, radio, and TV. As agents of social change, we must strive to use new and traditional media effectively to amplify our voices and create the social impact we all hope for.