Gen Z: How young people are changing activism | PUBG Latest

At their most basic function, digital spaces enable Gen Zers to develop their civic identities and express political stances in creative ways, from noting their sexual orientation in their Instagram bio, to joining groups aligning with their interests on the chat-room platform Discord. The online world offers somewhere for them to claim the agency they may not get in traditional civic spaces like their schools, universities or workplaces. A 2020 study from the UK Safer Internet Center showed 34% of 8-to-17-year-olds say the internet has inspired them to take action about a cause and 43% say it makes them feel their voices matter.

The nature of this relationship makes it easier to then exercise one’s civic identity and participate, both offline and online, in social change movements. From the comfort of a bedroom, someone can broadcast a message from a social media account, or build a new platform, without having to wait for a journalist to catch wind of it, or for a TV show to offer a primetime slot. While leafleting, telephone campaigns, word of mouth and canvassing might have been the catalysts for broadcasting a movement in decades before, now Gen Z can harness all this – and more. TikTok videos, hashtag movements like #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, podcasts and ‘hacktivism‘ have expanded the mediums through which young people can speak out and be heard.

“There are newer mechanisms through which they are mobilizing collectively and because of the pandemic, more emphasis has gone on organizing remotely, which may not require people to get together physically in large numbers,” says Sinha. He believes that what differentiates Gen Z from older generations is the proliferation of technology in young people’s social and political activity, and how intuitively they use it. One minute they’re reposting cat memes, the next they’re flooding Starbucks with fake job applications in a stand against the company’s decision to fire workers attempting to unionise.

“They understand certain mediums so much better, and know how to make things go viral in a way, unlike those of us who weren’t born into computer and mobile phone culture,” says Sinha. In contrast, he recalls working with fish workers in the 90s, who were rallying against the corporate trawling sector and its mechanic fisheries. Local communications had to be written as a letter, typed out and then faxed to all the movement’s international branches.

Today, a movement like this would look dramatically different, he argues – both bigger and faster, since the internet and smartphones have now democratised – and sped up – the path to power and access to a voice as an activist. Jackson-McKenzie believes social media grants individuals access to their very own press tool. “This allows us to narrate our own stories, which is why I think Gen Z has succeeded in so many activism efforts,” he says. “We are wholly interlinked to connect across the world.”

With social media throwing the window wide on all forms of activism, Gen Z has the capacity to raise awareness about the issues disturbing them, even if the path to concrete change is still long. Still rooted in local struggles and realities, contemporary social movements are increasingly “glocal“, operating both globally and locally, with offline and online networks overlapping. Many of the recent youth-led street protests have been organized online, with Twitter, TikTok and Instagram serving as hubs for information and networking.

From the Arab Spring to Black Lives Matter, youth-led movements are gathering momentum through digital means and result in large-scale transnational protests. One notable example saw children from primary level upwards walk out of school to demand action against climate change in March 2019. The 1.4 million-strong School Strike for Climate – the largest of its kind in history – captured global attention through documenting local protests on Twitter, with this ‘glocal’ posting expanding its reach and encouraging others to organize their own versions. The strikes clearly had an effect, as concern about the climate crisis peaked in the same month the strikes took place,

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