Media Moment: Overactive Activism on Social Media

Media Moment: Overactive Activism on Social Media

To be completely honest, when I was younger, I was never interested in the news. I hated it when my parents wanted to listen to the news on the radio. I would instantly change the channel on the TV, and I wouldn’t be caught dead reading the newspaper. It’s not that I didn’t care about what happened in the world. I really did, but it just wasn’t interesting to me. The headlines and brief explanations of current events were enough for me.

As I’ve gotten older, however, developing an obsession with the news has been hard to resist. The constant stream of information and reporting that social media and internet access provide makes it nearly impossible to ignore. Not to mention the fact that there is increasing pressure to stay informed and aware of current events from both peers and internet activists on social media. These past few years have been busier than ever in terms of news, and keeping up with it all seems like a necessity.

Recently, as my knowledge of the world has grown, I have found myself very interested in activism such as the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, climate change, gender equality, and more. These interests have led me to join clubs at school, volunteer and devote my time, and seek to educate myself through reading news articles and blog posts and following activists on social media who bring awareness to more specific issues. The social media aspect in particular was extremely helpful to me because I was informed of stories and opportunities that I simply would not have come across on my own. I’ve found it very informative to hear people speak about/explain concepts online; which has served as a jumping off point for my own more in-depth reading.

One aspect of activism on social media that is particularly helpful is that there are so many of activists. With the massive amount of people using platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and others to bring awareness to issues they find important, one can come across an exceedingly diverse set of information and causes. It seems that there are an endless amount of causes and problems in the world, and each one has its group of advocates urging people to become educated on the topic and contribute in some way. I have even seen people called out for not knowing about a certain issue, or not speaking up about it. And of course, each cause seems equally important, and pressing, and vital. But how can I possibly keep track of all of the issues, nevermind become fully educated and meaningfully contribute to them?

Well, what I’ve found is that I can’t. I simply do not have the time to read every news story that comes across my feed, and educate myself about each one. In addition, I find it both tiring and stressful to follow too many causes and be constantly informed of issues going on in the world. However, I find that being uninformed on current events can be just as stressful, especially when they are related to issues I care about.

I didn’t quite realize that I was filtering my media in my mind until I came across a video about a specific issue, and before forming an opinion on the person’s stance, I realized that I only had surface level knowledge of the situation. My first instinct was to do a google search and come up with some sort of answer, but then I thought, “would that be the best use of my time?”. I already knew that I could not possibly keep up with everything, and decided that this particular topic was not something I could dedicate my time and energy to.

I concluded that having at least a surface-level understanding of many topics—and in-depth knowledge about those that are most important to me and my values—might actually be a reasonable resolution to my problem. This shift in my thinking has helped me feel better about the topics I choose to spend my time reading about and has lessened my anxiety when it comes to how and what news I consume.

– Audrey Watnick, a high school student in Massachusetts