Opinion

The Impact of Social Media on the Black Lives Matter Movement

DCblackout, not a real blackout! how Disinformation affects BLM ...
Credit: Medium

In recent months the Black Lives Matter movement has been reignited as a result of American Police murdering a number of black individuals. However, this time the movement feels different (in a good way). People are actually finally taking notice of the systematic racism that has been prevalent in many societies around the world (not just the U.S. – however it has been most brutal in the US). The difficulty comes by the fact that it is ‘systematic’, which means these changes require an entire change of mentality amongst these communities, which is much easier said than done. When we discuss systematic we refer to a body of ideas or principles.

Throughout this period the movement has been able to utilise a powerful tool to organise mass movements, create awareness and more importantly prevent the suppression of stories that otherwise go unheard of. The movement was reignited by the murder of George Floyd on the 25th of May by Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This video went viral on social media and led to extreme protests against the police brutality against African Americans in the United States.

Meet the artists behind the Black Lives Matter artwork on ...
Some of the artwork shared on social media for BLM. Credit: Insider

Due to the virality of the video, many similar experiences began to be rapidly shared on social media globally, creating an intense amount of support for the movement. Although unfortunately, I believed that some of the actions associated with it provided little support to the actual movement – one example fo this (at least in my area) was the idea of posting a black square on your instagram page. While I do agree to some extent that people become aware of the movement, do they actually PROVIDE anything to the movement? Does it actually do anything? The issue I saw was that it became almost like a trend. People only did it because other people were doing it. Helping to uproot systematic racism does start with the people, but it needs to be about changes in mentality. Some of the people in the US that still believe in racism have been taught to be racist or to have pre-conceived views on people, no one is born like that.

This generational closed-mindedness is what needs to be fixed. Social media has allowed for the mobilisation of mass movements and protests, through the use of sharing and following specific accounts. This is something that in the past had been more difficult to organise (yet definitely not impossible), hence this accessibility to a large number of people has been extremely beneficial to the black lives matter movement. Many people and celebrities have even donated to the well-known movement, such as K-Pop group BTS and John Cena, who both donated $1 million. This influx of donations has far surpassed the group’s expenses and so what is it actually being spent on? I feel that many people donate in order to feel that they have contributed something to the movement. Too many people are what I would call ‘passive supporters’. These are people that want to feel like they are supporting a movement, but not really providing the support where it is needed.

As a result of these recent events we almost seem to have these online patrollers who search the internet for those that have been racist in the past (or at least have said something that is close to the line). BUT pulling up a tongue-in-cheek comment that a celebrity made 10 years ago isn’t the issue. The issue is people who actively discriminate against African Americans. Those who don’t hire certain people because of the colour of their skin, or those who will disregard people in social situations for the same reason.

B&H Removes Employee Over Anti-BLM Posts
Evidence of current opposition to the movement. IF you oppose something, explain why. Credit: PetaPixel

Social media has been important to identify these figures, as social media shows things that many TV channels cannot. These include things like gruesome or violent videos, while these may be distressing, they are sometimes essential to understanding what is ACTUALLY happening. Too many people simply watch TV and miss out on a wealth of information from other sources (assuming you follow the right people that is). I believe the key to changing these beliefs are through the use of those with a platform. Those with a platform are seen as idols, and people follow their view points. If people begin to feel that having these beliefs are unacceptable, then perhaps they can understand their wrongdoing. It is about helping people to understand what is happening and why.

I do feel that there is nothing wrong with opposing the way in which the movement is being dealt with, if you explain why. However, not agreeing with the beliefs is something slightly different. Inherently, if you believe this and are reading the article, you are already on your way to understanding the issue with discrimination against black people.

One question I have for you, is whether you can actually eradicate systematic racism in the short-term, or only suppress it? In the long term of course it is possible to eradicate, as ideologies will be changed as a result of this movement and these ideologies will hopefully be passed on to future generations gradually – weeding out the racism that has been prevalent for centuries/millennia. On the other hand, suppression is entirely possible. Suppression would simply involve making those true racists unable to express their opinions openly or be discriminatory. I genuinely think that over the course of the next 20-50 years, people will just see others as equal people, no matter about the colour of their skin or gender. Having lived in an international community for the majority of my life, it seems almost inconceivable to me that this still exists today.

How effective has the movement been so far?

Derek Chauvin who killed George Floyd was charged with second-degree murder, and claims about there being no signs of suffocation have been successfully rebutted. Other names are being shared where similar experiences have occurred, and this also leads to increased waves of support for those people too. On the contrary, some people have clearly taken advantage of the situation in the US with the protests. People looting stores have tarnished the reputation of the movement, and that doesn’t help their reputation – as here we come to the issue with social media. Social media shows you the worst, as that’s what people watch the most. These algorithms are geared towards showing you content that other users have deemed ‘likeable’.

George Floyd death: Protests held from Los Angeles to Minneapolis ...
Some more violent protests in the US. Credit: ABC7

Social media is a great tool but it also leaves me wondering, who actually gets to see all sides of a story? Anyone? Most people are only exposed to a limited set of information, and proving that disinformation exists is essential to allowing people to develop a full understanding of what is going on, and consequently make educated decisions.

These mediums of communication have provided a voice for people that previously had no platform. It allowed for sharing of content and allows information to be shared amongst the people. I’m extremely happy that people are using their voice for beneficial causes on social media, but the key to uprooting systematic racism (at least I believe – as this is an opinion, so feel free to disagree) is to change the ideologies of people. Support those being oppressed in every day life, and if you are in a position to make hiring decisions, just remember that no matter what they look like – it is the character and personality that you hire.

I am very grateful that an international community has allowed me (and also my peers) to develop an open minded approach to issues like these, and I hope that you are enjoying these different kinds of articles. If you do, and want to also hear about reviews and tutorials, maybe just consider joining my email list……… Of course the choice is yours as you know!

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