SDSU students shift social media into social change

by Ceighlee Fennel, Arts & Culture Editor

Social media has grown out of the box of confined life updates with friends and family and has become an agent of social change.

The fire in the Amazon is an example of how social media is adding to the traditional news sphere. There was outcry over the fact that traditional news outlets such as TV, radio and print weren’t bringing attention to the fire.

The public used social media to raise awareness about the issue. San Diego State students got involved in the international issue by posting updates, facts, pictures and news about the fire to Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and other platforms.

“By the time I had heard about it, it had already been burning for two days and it was already hundreds of acres and when you heard about Notre Dame burning they got how many hundreds of millions of dollars in a day or two,” sustainability senior Abigail Sarda said. “I posted right away because I hadn’t even heard about it, and I needed other people to know.”

SDSU alumni contributed to the movement as well. Recently graduated alum Keely Parker posted to her Instagram story calling for action.

“I posted because I wanted to raise awareness about the state of our planet,” Parker said. “The Amazon and Great Barrier Reef have been harmed greatly because of humans, but not enough people are taking a stance. By visually seeing the pictures of the Amazon, I thought it’d make all the climate issues happening more real for people.”

There are other examples of students posting about national and international news to help spread awareness on campus such as the fall of Notre Dame, recent school shootings, black women’s equal pay day and more. 

“I was talking with my friend and we were stressing ‘What are we going to do? We are in American and the Amazon is burning and nobody cares,’” Sarda said. “I was telling her that the only thing I know right now that can get the biggest impact as far as I can tell for our generation is social media. You have a bigger rate of reach than you would ever think.”

Sarda also talked about the current social media shift to be more centered around activism. She said students aren’t worrying so much about what their followers will think of them, and that they are shifting towards posting information because it needs to be vocalized. Posting about social change or social justice doesn’t have as much of a stigma anymore, and SDSU students are definitely taking advantage of it, Sarda said.

A current trending example is Hurricane Dorian. The massive hurricane commanded all types of news from traditional to social media. This instance differs from the Amazon fire because it automatically got coverage when the Amazon burning down wasn’t widely covered at first.

However, social media was used to raise funding for the Amazon and the same is possible for the victims of Hurricane Dorian. Social media can be an agent for this aide.

People were posting about cruise ships sending their fleets to help house victims. The cruise ship Celebrity Equinox came to victims’ aid by delivering over 10,000 meals. Although, it is hard to determine social media’s role in this assistance.

Students can wield social media in a variety of ways. They grew up with the different social media platforms and have shaped them into platforms with more of a purpose than only posting pictures. Social media can be used for creating communities, keeping in touch with family or also social change, education, raising money and more.

“SDSU students can connect with others who have similar interests, find volunteer opportunities or nonprofits and educate themselves by seeing what friends are posting,” Parker said. “When having a ‘following’ too, reposting a story can allow thousands more to see it which might spark change in some of them.”

Sarda also thought reaching more people is important. She mentioned environmental groups on campus and how they utilize social media too.

“In a climate of feeling pretty hopeless, it’s just getting the word out and telling people,” Sarda said. “I think for E3 or Greenlove, the eco groups on campus, one of the first they do is reach out on social media. That’s where they dissipate a lot of their information. If you are going to try to get your information out there, you’re probably going to try to go to social media first.”