If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you’ve likely encountered online activists, known by many as social justice warriors. These activists flock to forums, toting polarizing beliefs and self-proclaimed truths. Each is an integral member of their community, whether they are fighting for racial equality, women’s rights, or gun control. Their prominence is undeniable as they drive many socio-political changes in today’s world. But what is their real impact, and how will they shape our future?
On Twitter, social activism is thriving. Hashtags can- and have- become large-scale political movements. For example, #metoo, a hashtag for rape and sexual assault solidarity, garnered over twelve million uses across social media in just 24 hours. Even the women’s march, which had a national turnout of around 4 million people, was born from a Twitter hashtag. The #blacklivesmatter movement gained much of its traction on Twitter as well. As of July 2018, the hashtag had been used nearly 30 million times sitewide and was used 500,000 times a day on average during July 2016.
These online movements are not just making a change; they are shaping the next generation’s socio-political values. Research shows that 93% of teens (ages 12-17) are active online, meaning that 93% of teens are exposed to large-scale social media ideologies as they form their own beliefs. These teens are becoming activists themselves, with over one million teens participating in last year’s nationwide school walkout in protest of school shootings. US teens became the face of #neveragain and the March for Our Lives. The online culture of activism, emphasis on active, has taught teens that they can actively speak out for what they believe in, a lesson that is seldom taught in a traditional classroom.