Social media has proven itself to be a powerful instigator of social and political action. Take DeRay Mckesson, for example. Alongside other activists like Johnetta Elzie, Mckesson has utilized platforms like Twitter and Instagram to ignite discussions and critiques surrounding civil rights issues. However, these leaders haven’t just sat behind their keyboards. They have been on the ground in communities, like Ferguson and Baltimore, organizing real social change. They have created organizations like Campaign Zero to work toward police reform and reducing police violence.
In 2017, let’s resolve to make our tweets mean more than just 140 characters. Let’s take our critique of systems of injustice past a hashtag. Here’s five things you can do in the new year to make legitimate change happen.
- Actively resist ignorance and hate
As J.K. Rowling said, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”
It’s pretty easy to muster up courage to fight back against a racist troll on Twitter. However, when your beloved aunt or father blurts out something blatantly Islamaphobic during Christmas dinner, it might be a bit more difficult to say something. Understand that grandma may not have been exposed to the same education or awareness as you have, but take it upon yourself to call out ignorance and hate among your peers and family. I’m not calling for heated debates over every family meal, but know that a respectful, intelligent conversation can go a long way. Don’t know where to start? Don’t fret. Showing Up For Racial Justice compiled a handy, extensive guide on how to have these difficult discussions.
- Contact your local politicians
In our current political climate where state governments are severely loosening gun restrictions, and national government acted to gut the ethics department, it’s crucial that we are holding our lawmakers accountable. Find your representatives and make a phone call (or few) and write a letter (or few). Between them and their staff, your voice will be heard. No matter the virality, a Facebook status or online petition is still less likely to be seen by a staffer than a letter.
- Financially support worthy organizations
Swap out that overpriced latte for a donation to a cause you are passionate about. Need some suggestions? Try the National Network of Abortion Funds, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or Climate Solutions. Donating on behalf of particular relatives or politicians has also been popular lately, with over 50,000 donations made to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name in 2016.
- Work to create change in your campus’ organizations
In my two and half years at the University of Missouri, I have seen and participated in incredible, positive changes in organizations I’m involved with. By incorporating pre-trip service, education initiatives, and a “take it home” component, our alternative breaks program has shifted our popular service trips away from “voluntourism” into a more sustainable, service-oriented system. By focusing on person-first language and focusing even more on the kids during our main event, Mizzou’s dance marathon is more inclusive and educated than ever. Work to make your student organizations more diverse, sustainable and impactful in this new year.
- Use your platform for good
Diversify the #newyearnewme influx of postings with how you plan on making actionable changes in the new year. Invite your friends on Facebook to social justice events or rallies around campus – even the ones you never thought in a million years would be interested. Retweet accredited news sources with articles worth reading. As young people with significant social followings, we have tremendous influence compared to generations before. We have the power to organize, discuss and create change that ripples across our communities and beyond. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s go dismantle some systems in 2017.