In today’s digital world, social media is the perfect global platform for campaigners to raise awareness for causes that affect millions of people around the world. For which there are plenty.
We’ve seen it used in political campaigns, from small-scale local elections to large-scale presidential campaigns in the USA. Potential candidates use social media to try and reach as many people as possible with their views. And most recently, we have all seen the plight from Extinction Rebellion whose actions are an attempt to compel government action on climate change. A popular cause and concern across the globe. You will also have seen the attention surrounding Greta Thunberg – another environmental activist who’s campaigning at just 16 years of age has gained her international recognition.
For both of these campaigns the physical actions of those involved have involved using what we might call more ‘old-school’ styles of demonstrations. Gathering outside key public buildings, blockades across bridges, waving placards and making noise to get their views across and force the government to take action. Campaigners take this approach because they want to be seen, heard and create such an impact that it forces change.
But what is becoming more and more apparent is how the use of social media is changing these old style environmental campaigns in more ways than one.
Firstly, there is how we hear about the protests. Posts across social media using words, images, gifs, video and more, mean we’re so much more aware of what’s happening across the world in real time. Because of this it also means that the campaigners are able to reach a much wider audience to get their point across and build momentum.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is how social media helps spread the word quickly, bringing larger groups of activists together to share a united message. The power of social media as a platform to reach millions of people in a very short space of time and build communities of like-minded individuals who coordinate demonstrations to happen at similar time thus making more of an impact.
Lastly, and having seen the very physical actions (though in their words, respectful disruption) of Extinction Rebellion recently , going forward social media could play a huge role in creating a much more peaceful and impactful way of spreading awareness.
Promoting views and influencing people could be done in a much more positive way, while still building support. Not only that but given so many protests today are about climate change, recycling and minimising waste, online campaigns can be executed without creating any waste while still allowing for messaging to be seen globally making a big impact.
The power of social media is exponential. Not only in reach but also in how it can change, shape and influence in our values and opinions. Thanks to an abundance of ideas, thoughts and opinions circulating it can present us with other points of view that can greatly influence how we think about certain issues. Its persuasive powers are enormous and hugely consequential.
Environmental campaigns often impact us personally as they resonate emotionally with activists who are striving to make the world a better place. There may always be a place for old school styles of campaigning, but using social media in the right way may just change how we make a stand in the future. Times are changing and with so many new platforms at our fingertips, we will see that the campaigns of years to come will be conducted in quite different ways.