Changing tides: It’s a social media world, we’re just browsing in it

Isabelle Ramos, Staff Writer

The changing role of social media has made a significant change in how people see today’s world. Its initial purpose was for entertainment and personal gain, yet today social media has grown into an educational platform advocating and inspiring the youth today. 

Social media has become really fundamental to the way that billions of people get information about the world and connect with each other…” said Kevin Werbach, a professor of legal studies and business ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

 Social media originated as an essential place to market one’s business and share one’s lifestyle. A variety of platforms help entrepreneurs connect with their customers which increases traffic on their pages. Marketing–especially with influencers–helps draw attention to one’s brand and helps promote their business. Yet today, social media has been overloaded with educational resources, fashion trends, lifestyle tips, and so much more. 

“Many social media platforms helped build up the Black Lives Matter movement which left a remarkable imprint on the world,” noted senior Maribelle Ramos. “The educational resources that apps Instagram and Tik Tok provided opened the eyes of its millions of users to systematic oppression, and the importance of equality within society. 

According to Students For Social Change’s website,  “Many advocates for the Black Lives Matter movement demonstrate their support by following educational social media accounts or reposting BLM specific posts, and this is what initially propelled the movement. Although graphics and hashtags definitely serve the purpose of spreading awareness, further action must be taken in order for social change to occur.”

This is illustrated in the Elijah McClain case. In 2019, McClain was walking home from a local convenience market with ice tea in his hands. A nearby neighbor had called 911 due to seeing a “suspicious person wearing a ski mask.” McClain was anemic and was often cold which explains why he had the mask. Officers approached McClain and their body cameras caught them wrestling him to the ground as he attempted to remove his headphones to hear them. An officer placed McClain in a carotid hold–restricting blood flow to his brain. McClain lost consciousness and struggled even after the officers released the hold. 

Paramedics arrived and pumped ketamine into McClain’s system. He was taken to the hospital but had a cardiac arrest on the way. He was pronounced brain dead three days later. The officers were placed on administrative leave and later that year were restored to their positions after prosecutors rejected filing criminal charges. 

Friends and families describe McClain as gentle and kind because he was a massage therapist and spent his lunch break putting on concerts for local animal shelters. His sweet story gained sympathy from many people. Almost a year later, McClain’s petition to arrest and charge the officers reached over a million signatures. Daily protests forced prosecutors to reopen the case. One of the officers has been fired in connection to posting an inappropriate photo at his memorial. His family has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Aurora, Colorado. Without the spreading of this atrocious event through social media a year later, many would not have known of his story. 

In addition to the Black Lives Matter movement, many social media platforms have been informing its users about the concentration camps in China. The Chinese government has tried to conceal this process which is why many are not informed of it. While there has been speculation about the cruel and unusual treatment the Uighurs endure in the camps, the Chinese government claims that the camps are just training centers to teach people job skills.  Recent data leaks and investigations have proven that the inquiries of harsh treatment that the Uighurs deal with are indeed true. 

According to Vox, “The Chinese Communist Party has arbitrarily detained between 1 million and 3 million other Uighurs in so-called “reeducation centers” and forced them to undergo psychological indoctrination programs, such as studying communist propaganda and giving thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping. Chinese officials have also reportedly used waterboarding and other forms of torture, including sexual abuse, as part of the indoctrination process.”

One teenager in specific, Ms. Aziz, decided to raise awareness on the concentration camps in China on the Tik Tok app. She starts off the video giving beauty tips–to captivate users–then flips the script and begins to address the cruel punishments of the Uighurs. Her video was watched more than 1.4 million times and had over 500,000 likes on the app. Although her video was taken down by Tik Tok, more of its users have made their own videos educating and spreading awareness. This video has also been shared on other social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, with users captioning it as if it were a tutorial video–to attract viewers.

Ms. Aziz described this matter as another Holocaust, in hopes that other countries would urgently intervene. Many other users have made their own posts and petitions for their nations to intervene. The goal was to spread awareness so that authorities and even members of the UN could possibly act on this matter. 

“I did not know the extent of the concentration camps until I saw many posts about it on Instagram,” said junior Destiny Pierre. “Early on, it was not talked about on the mainstream media, but it was heavily discussed on my Tik Tok and Instagram page.”

Furthermore, social media is not only advocating on issues of society but also informing its users of tips and tricks for a better lifestyle. The app Tik Tok contains many doctors who have created accounts simply to debunk common myths about health, or to educate on ways to gain better health.

This is exemplified by the Tik Tok user “SkinbyDrazi,” a medical doctor and dermatologist. She makes videos informing her viewers on products that abate dark spots, acne, stretch marks, hair loss, and so much more. She also performs live demonstrations from her medical office. This account has helped a plethora of people feel comfortable and confident skin just by giving basic advice. 

Social media is a world of wonders. From sharing one’s lifestyle to advertising their business, advocating for society’s needs, and educating on basic tips, its multi-skilled purpose is slowly changing the world each and every day.