Students grow more aware of large-scale issues

Pranav Pulakkat, Staff Writer

From #blacklivesmatter to #bringbackourgirls, we are witnessing a new wave of political activism amongst “milleanials.” The question is, why?

The participants of the Black Lives Matter movement might say that social media is the driving influence behind this growth in student involvement. Beginning with a hashtag in connection with the Zimmerman trial in 2012, social media has come to be a powerful arena where students can voice their discontent and protest on behalf of what they feel is right. The rate at which information, ideas, and opinions can be communicated across the web on social media has led to an unprecedented explosion of social commentary, linkage, and forcefulness of opinion. In a society where each “like” on a post is comparable to a vote being cast in its favor, the importance of social media as a way for students to connect with events bigger than themselves is not to be underestimated.

Are social media and the Internet the only reasons why students are becoming more involved? As usual, the truth is too complicated to be reduced to a rule. Student sit-ins and protests, similar to the recent student occupation of the president of Princeton University’s office, have been going on for years. The activism during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 60’s, long before the Internet, also had a great deal of student involvement. While the Internet no doubt facilitates communication, I do not think that it is the main reason for the growth in student involvement. In my opinion, the real cause is society’s growing acceptance of ethical debate.

Centuries ago, discrimination and unfair treatment of minorities were the norm in America. Less than a hundred years ago, it was legal for public accommodations to be segregated by the color of one’s skin. It took us years to progress to the point where we, as a nation were forced to acknowledge racism as a widespread problem. Now, while incidences of racial violence persist, they do not escape public scrutiny—the majority of us are repulsed by such events, and many are willing to say so. At the same time, issues such as LGBT rights and the Syrian refugee crisis are more polarized and loudly expressed on numerous platforms. People have become willing to discuss and grapple with issues that previous generations gave a wide berth.

It is against this background that social media and the Internet have become relevant at all—without the will to participate, the platform means nothing. It is we who decide whether we will use the resources available to us to make a change.