The University of Guelph-Humber’s EMERGE team hosted an event focusing on how social media is used to spread awareness of various movements and holding the justice system accountable. Prominent causes such as #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter and #AmINext were some of the earliest hashtag movements to make an online change.
Jamie Vergara, the fourth year media studies student in charge of the event, found that social media is quickly evolving and becoming a place where individuals go to voice their opinions and concerns.
“We saw how social media is no longer a platform just for selfies or memes or tagging people in a funny post. It’s become a platform for people to unite their voices, to create change and to be an activist,” Vergara said.
Digital activism coordinator at Amnesty International, Daniella Barretto, says social media is making it easy for like-minded activists to further the conversation about the injustices they witness.
“It’s a lot easier to find people. Using social media, you can have groups, you can have ways people can find each other and be a lot stronger in creating a response,” said Barretto.
#AmINext is just one of the many online movements that have gone viral and raised awareness on the ongoing issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada.
Holly Jarrett, the founder of #AmINext officially launched her campaign in September 2014, after her cousin Loretta Saunders was found dead, two weeks after she was reported missing.
“I created the campaign #AmINext out of pure drive from myself and I did not care who listened to it but it needed to be out there,” Jarrett said.
“I copied the ice bucket challenge and I tagged five of my friends in Labrador. And I made a video, and I held a sign and I explained to Prime Minister Harper, very publicly on Facebook, not really realizing the impact it would have,”
According to Vergara, social media, provides a place for people to have a voice, when the mainstream media leaves them voiceless.
She said, “with the rise of #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, it’s not just small cities, it’s the entire community coming online because they relate, they understand and they know. In today’s age with the rise of social media, it just goes hand in hand with social justice.