How social media is shaping 21st century social justice movements and activism

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Social media has provided a dynamic avenue for activists to spread their messages and reach a wider audience on the global stage. Large social movements, like the Black Lives Matter Movement, have shown the immense power that digital platforms like Instagram and Twitter hold in recruiting supporters and helping to enact meaningful, enduring change in a society that has long been defined by its high levels of inequality.   

To discuss this interaction between social media and social justice, the Leadership Legacy Speaker Series welcomed Feminista Jones, a former social worker turned public speaker, feminist writer and community activist, to speak about her own experiences as an activist and the ability that social media has to unify people.  

“Social media has been a great unifier,” Jones said. “So people are not functioning in silos anymore; they are not doing this work alone and independent anymore.” 

This sense of togetherness and collective consciousness allows individuals to be seen and to be heard by others and encourages people to share their own stories without fear of judgment or that they are alone in their struggles. This power that social media holds extends to traditionally marginalized people within society such as people of color, women, disabled people and members of the LGBTQ+ community, who can all use social media to empower themselves and those around them. 

“They are connecting with people across their cities and their states and their countries and other countries because we’re realizing that people are experiencing the same kinds of things all over the world and so that collective consciousness is growing,” Jones said.  

The ability of social media to reach global audiences creates the opportunity to inform more people and also encourage other marginalized individuals to utilize their power to fight for change in their communities, whether it be on a local, national or global scale. 

“I do believe this is one of the most powerful tools that marginalized people have ever had in the history of oppression,” Jones said. “Too many of us have been erased from history … our contributions have been ignored or denied and so I believe that whenever you document things about your own life … you are writing truth to power.” 

Whether it be a selfie, a trending hashtag or a video from a protest, Jones said that social media provides a way for individuals to leave their mark on the world and cement their place in history. One of Jones’ lasting contributions is her book “Reclaiming Our Space: How Black Feminism is Changing the World from the Tweets to the Street” which explores how Black women are changing culture, society and the overall landscape of feminism through their use of social media. 

“I consider myself a creative person and what I realize is that we all have roles to play when it comes to liberation and revolution,” Jones said. “And one of the strengths that I have is being able to articulate thoughts and articulate the ways that people have been feeling and experiencing life and make it plain for others so they can better understand.” 

In her book, Jones talks about how hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, #SayHerName and #BlackGirlMagic were created by Black women and have since been used as powerful storytelling tools to help strengthen and unify the social media discourse on certain topics. 

“It’s not that I am seeking to speak over anyone or speak for anyone, but I am helping to facilitate conversations and create discourse so that marginalized people are able to have their voices be heard,” Jones said. 

Jones is one of many activists who have dedicated their lives to fight injustices in society and serve as an advocate for marginalized communities to provide them with the resources and knowledge that is necessary to challenge societal norms. Her Instagram account, which has amassed over sixty thousand followers, is dedicated to spreading messages of hope, resilience and liberation to motivate and inspire the next generation of social change activists. 

“What we have to understand is that no group of people has ever obtained freedom by waiting for it to be given to them,” Jones said. 

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