by Lexi Kupor
Public Relations Manager
In a continuously globalizing world, the effective use of social media is paramount to the spheres of news, communication, campaigning, and collaboration. However, more recently the online scene has become dominated by a teen-led ‘Instagram activism’ in which digital illustrations, infographics, and resources aggregate to form the latest ‘aesthetic’ spreading rapidly from one screen to the next.
While this online engagement is a positive starting point for teens endeavoring to increase their political involvement, adolescents have the responsibility to be civically engaged through more tangible, effective media if they truly aim to fulfill this objective; simply hopping on a trend and failing to follow through with promises to “do better” is not enough.
While reposting a graphic may help increase public attention surrounding a specific issue, it does little to alleviate it. Perhaps sign a reliable, trustworthy petition, for example, and then include the link for others to do the same. Advertising for a certain candidate proves political awareness, but joining a local phone banking session or writing letters to voters proves action and engagement. Berating an unjust act or organization provokes emotion, but contributing public comments at local meetings provokes change.
These acts, while initially daunting, are not difficult to accomplish. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, for example, debates numerous acts of legislation at live, streamed meetings multiple times a week, where any member of the public is invited to speak on an issue that is important to them. If speaking live is an anxiety-inducing experience, emailing a written public comment to be considered during the meeting is a beneficial option. Systems of democracy are designed to amplify the voices of constituents; it is our responsibility to provide these voices.
Joining the social media activism scene should be considered a minimum expectation, not the maximum involvement. If the non-voting population truly wishes to prove their awareness of contemporary issues, dedicating time and effort to such causes should not be too much to ask.
True change is derived not from a trendy quote or an oversimplified depiction of political turmoil, but from raw, authentic, and often laborious effort. There is little glamor involved in this work, it lacks picture-perfect moments, and it certainly won’t guarantee you a like and a comment. Yet, this is what makes it so impactful: it’s real, it’s honest, and it’s fruitful. While effective civic engagement might not raise your follower count, it will change lives.