Whenever a political event receives attention, I see social media influencers’ comment sections flooded with calls to discuss or spread awareness on the topic. In this day and age of cancel culture, it sometimes seems that choosing not to use your platform to elevate awareness is cause for cancellation. 

While digitally-based activism can be advantageous in accomplishing things such as engaging people who may not usually follow current events, I think there can also be ramifications. 

Social media does present benefits when considering how to spread political happenings easily. People experiencing devastating occurrences can gain traction for their cause by posting to platforms that can reach massive global audiences. The audience that these apps attract has the potential to view accounts of people who are on the ground experiencing these issues firsthand. 

When viewers develop that personal connection to an issue that comes with seeing someone living through these conditions or experiences, it has the power to intensify the response to help solve a current event positively. Of course, there sometimes can be bias involved in this, however, viewing these first-hand accounts in combination with learning about topics from researched and impartial sources can be tremendously valuable.

Additionally, since such an immense amount of the population consumes social media, people who are not usually politically active can absorb information about current events in convenient and manageable ways. People who go on Instagram to see what their friends post can also easily learn about a current event through a post or Instagram story. In this manner, social media allows for a more simplified and straightforward information-sharing method.

Digital activism does have considerable benefits when thinking about spreading meaningful information. However, there is a tradeoff between this ability to access information easily and the correlated misinformation. I’m sure that social media companies can monitor accounts for falsified information. Yet, a continuum exists between falsified and maybe just misleading information. 

Complications regarding the discussion of political issues can arise when accounts that carry a lot of influence post videos or infographics that contain misleading or incomplete information. Instagram stories last just a couple of seconds, and only so much information can be included in those few seconds. Similarly, Instagram posts can only present as much information as the captions and small squares allow. Comparatively, long-form news channels usually run multiple programs daily that can sometimes portray the entirety of a story more thoroughly. 

Most nights before I go to bed, I spend time scrolling on my phone and watching TikTok videos. During the past few years, I have noticed an increased demand for social media influencers to discuss current events and utilize their platforms to spread awareness of global affairs. When thinking about the reach that many digital creators have, sometimes garnering millions of views on apps such as TikTok, it would make sense for people who are passionate about certain topics to ask for help in spreading that message. 

This phenomenon can go astray when people are placing increased pressure on creators to discuss complex topics they do not have any background knowledge of. Similarly, if digital creators are not committed to actually carefully researching a topic before posting, misinformation can easily spread. To combat this, people should look to informed and prepared individuals to spread awareness on complex topics. 

While social media can be an outlet for gathering a baseline or preliminary introduction to a headline, I do not think that political opinions about worldly topics should be shaped by short-form videos. There is also an argument to be made that sometimes, using your platform to leverage the voices of those who are more educated on a topic should be seen as equally valuable as a contribution to presenting information yourself. 

When utilized responsibly, social media can effectively focus on pertinent topics that deeply affect people. I also think that most efforts to support current events on social media are well-meaning. Going forward, it would be beneficial for people to follow social media accounts created by people or organizations dedicated to putting in ample effort to research topics impartially and in their entirety.

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