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By Ellie Green Insights on Activism by our Global Hack Squad

HACK SQUAD ON ACTIVISM

LEXIE ACTIVISM

How would you define activism? How can someone be an activist?

To me, activism is simply getting involved with and attempting to make change in areas that you’re passionate about. It doesn’t have to be a full-time job, although it can be quite time-consuming! There are so many ways that people can be activists, including setting up/working with organisations, protesting, writing letters, educating others, and campaigning. Anyone can be an activist, but it’s really important that we centre voices which are often erased, like Black, Brown, female, Muslim, queer, trans, and disabled voices.

How important do you think social media is at the moment for youth activism? Do you think its impact is 100% positive? 

I think social media is absolutely essential for youth activism – particularly through infographics on Instagram accounts like @impact and @soyouwanttotalkabout, which people repost on their story. Many of my friends who were not previously that informed on world issues, are now becoming increasingly aware because of social media. However, it definitely isn’t an 100% positive impact… social media massively condenses information, and whilst that can be a good thing re accessibility, it means that people often don’t get the full details on a story, so are then ill-informed. Additionally, social media means that a lot of people will repost a few infographics and then claim they’re ‘activists’. I’m not trying to gatekeep activism, but it is important that people from privileged backgrounds (e.g., white/straight/cis people) aren’t lazy, and are trying to implement actual change beyond just reposting things on Instagram. Another negative effect is that social media often aestheticises important issues…whilst infographics can be beneficial, the ‘aesthetic’ designs of infographics regularly trivialise such serious matters.

What do you think is the best or most powerful way to educate people on these issues?

I think that implementing change in the school curriculum, even for younger years, is the most effective method. The education system is flawed in many ways, and the curriculum is definitely part of the problem. Social media can be a powerful tool, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t offer full, detailed information, so schools need to be providing us with that.

PRESLEY ACTIVISM

How would you define activism? How can someone be an activist? 

Activism is very hard to define — but I personally describe it as any conscious effort to make the world a better place. To me, activism is anything from protest to government legislation to helping a stranger at the grocery store. Activism is all about community and making the world better for yourself and the people around you.

Do you feel like too much pressure is being put on younger generations to make the important changes?

YES. Yes, I do. Past generations ruined our world and put it on us to fix it. And it’s a way to distract from past activism to put pressure on Gen Z to be the activist generation. People have been fighting for change for thousands of years and their work deserves to be acknowledged too, and more people who are actually *adults* should be pitching in too.

What do you think is the best or most powerful way to educate people on these issues? (e.g. school curriculum? Social media? Anything else?)

First-hand experience! Talk to the people you are advocating for! Understand their experiences! Also reading. Read more books. Read some theory. Develop your own opinion on things and for the love of god, do not define your activism exclusively by what you see on social media. I also pretty strongly believe that learning history helps a lot as well!

ALE ACTIVISM

Do you think there are any brands/products that are leading the way when it comes to making positive change?

I remember doing a project a while ago about how to counter consumerism, and one of our proposals was for brands to adopt a policy more like that of Patagonia… back when I did my research, when you bought one of their jackets you also bought a guarantee that they would repair any wear-and-tear damage that was fixable. I think that brands that do not create for planned obsolescence, and that are committed to fixing and truly getting the most use out of their product, rather than making a low-quality object that becomes disposable at the first sign of damage, are the way to go. I also think a specific product that is absolutely trailblazing in making positive change is menstrual cups, or “diva cups.” I feel so wasteful every time I’m on my period because I feel like I’m just burning through pads and tampons, and I think having a diva cup will definitely be a step closer to sustainability. Many diva cups out there come from women-owned companies and are women-designed, and all carry some semblance of body positivity. I like that philosophy in a company, and paired with sustainability, this is definitely a product that I’m gonna have to try!

How important do you think social media is at the moment for youth activism? Do you think its impact is 100% positive?

I think social media is, currently, the foremost tool that many budding activists have— however, I’m not exactly a fan. There is so much going on in social media that, at least for me, it has started to feel less like a sharing app and more like a dumping ground. I think that activism easily gets lost in today’s barrage of posts, and so while it’s a good outreach tool (just look at BLM over the summer!), it shouldn’t be the only thing you’re doing. I think that because social media is so linked to your personal profile, activism posting has become a lot about virtue signalling or posting activist-related content not because you want to get it out there, but because you fear you’re gonna look like a bad person if you don’t do it. So everyone posts, sometimes having barely read what they’re reposting, just so it is evident to their followers that they’ve thought about these issues. So, overall, while I think social media is a truly phenomenal tool to rouse engagement and kickstart exposure to social issues and difficult conversations, we have to acknowledge that it is little else but a superficial intro. Activism must go beyond the screen and delve into action and deeper education, and I think that social media can become an “easy way out” of committing to the heavier stuff. It shouldn’t be! It’s the heavier stuff that gets things done and gets change rolling, and I think the lull of inaction that social media fosters can, if overused, prove detrimental to social movements.

Do you feel like too much pressure is being put on younger generations to make the important changes?

Yes, but I think that it’s natural considering that we have been born into an unprecedented state of crisis. I think that all of us feel like we have to make a change; however, I think that that onus can become pressure if we stop believing that we have a right to anything else but “bringing on change.” Activist burnout is a very real phenomenon, one I think everyone my age has experienced at some point or another, and I think that’s to some extent because of this pressure. I think older generations really look to ours because they think their time has passed, but it hasn’t! If everyone of all ages put in the effort, instead of just buying into the “Gen Z is in charge of saving the world” mentality, our plans for improvement would be significantly more realistic and activism would take on a character of solidarity that it is hard to foster and that I’ve only ever experienced as part of the Mexican feminist movement. It’s never too late to get interested in and active in social issues! And I think outreach to older generations is a necessary part of any social movement.

Do you think your generation is optimistic about the future?  

Short answer? No. We have very little to be optimistic about from how things stand, and every day we see stuff get worse instead of better.

Long answer? No… but we’re pushing toward a yes. I always feel so inspired when I see change happening at a grassroots or popular level because it truly does show me that a better world, or a movement toward a better one, is absolutely possible. In Mexico, as part of the feminist movement, I’ve seen SO MANY women diverge from the “official narrative” and begin crafting their own stories and demands. Seeing change at the lowest levels truly makes me believe it is possible, and I think that we’re working toward bringing that change higher and higher until it becomes wide-reaching. So I think activism is, in a way, working toward a world we can feel optimistic about.

AMY ACTIVISM

What influences or educates you around the activist topics you engage with? i.e. social media, news, friends, tv etc?

I’m an avid reader, so I love a good environmental/activism book or newspaper feature. I’m also always conscious of not seeing issues from just one perspective, so I use social media as a useful way of hearing the voices of people from different backgrounds or from outside my activism echo chamber.

Do you think your generation is optimistic about the future?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I think we try to be. I try to focus my activism on messages of hope more than doom and gloom – after all, whilst anger and doomism are important drivers for change, they often don’t lead to prolonged and meaningful action. But there are always times that the future can seem worrying – especially when we see important bills or taxes that benefit the environment being put off for decades later, contrasted with new evidence of just how quickly we’re accelerating towards catastrophic and irreversible changes to our climate. It’s why ecoanxiety is a common problem among people of my age – we see that many of these issues will affect our futures and are already impacting people around the planet, and it can be debilitating to see not enough being done to address them. But as I said, it’s important to turn that worry into positive action that will bring about the changes we want, and need, to see.

What do you think is the best or most powerful way to educate people on these issues? (e.g. school curriculum? Social media? Anything else?)

Digital outreach (such as social media and videos) is a powerful way to spread awareness – it allows you to reach people of all ages, backgrounds and locations (and to keep action going even during difficult situations like the pandemic!). It goes hand in hand with in-person outreach as well; as much as we’ve all become more adjusted to speaking through the screen than face-to-face during COVID, speaking to an audience in person is far more engaging than digital communication can ever be. But I think that this can only go so far – we need to see education on issues facing our planet truly ingrained in the education system, so that young people grow up with an appreciation for the world we live in even from a young age.