The use of social media to efficiently share information, especially monumental and rapidly changing news, has revolutionised how news is shared. However, with this innovative development, that is fast news and widespread awareness, comes the social obligation to share input on every single piece of trending news that one comes across. Regardless of how little you might know about the topic or the nuance that surrounds it. Dylan O’Brien is a famous actor and famed male feminist known for reacting to viral news with a trite tweet to show his activism. For instance, he responded to a report about the overturning of Roe v. Wade with the words “f**king evil”. This is called the Dylan O’Brien effect because other celebrities have since adopted this method of reacting to news. Social media has placed the onus of speedy responses on regular people and celebrities alike, resulting in a new era of social media activism.
There has been a rise in the popularity of social media apps, and the shared content has diversified in tow . Having such open access to strangers on the internet has led social media users to not only have an interest in your breakfast, but also who you voted for during the SRC elections and each of your moral ideals. Whenever news breaks, social media is quick to report on it, and people increasingly turn to various pages as trusted sources for information. That is, usually, when the mass repost begins, and everyone from Angelina Jolie to your cousin who never posts anything, decides to like and share the viral infographic with its accompanying hashtag. Then, everyone’s eyes avert to that one celebrity or family member, who has not posted or said anything yet, and we all look on with scrutiny and pointed questions. Why haven’t they said anything? Why is a platform of 5000 or 5 million people being wasted by the silence of a public figure? Being nonpartisan is fatal and backing the wrong horse is even more so. The Dylan O’Brien effect happens when social media masses effectively coerce uninformed people (mainly, celebrities) to make declarative statements. Social media activism has increased in prevalence during the last few years due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ease with which news can be shared with the people most affected. How does this new approach to activism often fail? Social media consists of millions of regular people. That said, the average social media user does not have the required knowledge to share any valuable input on important news. Not only can this be a gateway to mass misinformation, but sometimes, the influx of posts can clog up reputable sources and create an additional problem. For instance, during the 2020 US Black Lives Matter protests. Instagram users resolved to post black squares to show solidarity with American protesters against police brutality. While this was done good faith, it did more harm than good, because Instagram feeds were crowded with images of black squares and helpful updates on the ongoing protests were lost in the heaps of allies. The intention is to educate others, raising awareness by displaying one’s allyship is important. However, it is equally vital to promote relevant, trustworthy and accurate information sources above one’s relatively uninformed hot take. Social media activism can become performative
rather easily. So much of social media is already illusive and is curated as a highlight reel when compared to the reality of offline life. People can use the necessary cause of spreading awareness about certain news as a trojan horse to feign virtue and compassion for their own image. Much like those Instagram stickers that read, “repost if you’re against gender-based violence, I can see who skips!” Social media activism often means little more than a gesture and rarely leads to measurable change. It’s not all bad! This form of activism allows for significantly quicker sharing of information. Every day, approximately 95 million Instagram posts are made. Regular users are highly likely to come across important news and causes to support from that staggering number (not considering other social media apps and their statistics). Through social media, news can be consumed in a straightforward way, and the characteristic features of personal engagement, such as stories or direct messages, can help people understand things more clearly. This could not be achieved through radio updates or newspaper reports, and the modern tendency toward online news might lead to a better understanding of certain news issues in the long term. Additionally, in the 21st century, your online persona can be used as a portfolio that reflects your values. Social media activism can help many people showcase what they stand for and easily find forums of people that are similarly inclined to a common
cause. Lastly, change can be effected due to social media activism; as a byproduct of spreading awareness and generating mass support or revolt for something. Virality and the responses of regular social media users can elicit helpful and practical courses of action such as petitions that can potentially lead to significant change. It’s easy to want to add input on everything you come across, especially when social media encourages responsible and compassionate usage. However, it is essential to remember: “not everything needs your freezer-burned take!” Instead, try to further your understanding of matters that are important to you or politically and socially significant. If you need a social discussion about it, consult close friends and family who are able and willing to help you expand your knowledge of it in practical ways.