By Isabella Lock, freelance journalist and student at University of Manchester studying Spanish and Japanese.
As young adults, we do not always have much money and time — but we know that there are many ways in which we can bring about change.
Despite the never-ending deadlines and the new and glorious challenges of adult life, Gen Z are some of the most political and active members of our society. The police brutality that resulted in the death of George Floyd sparked mass protests across the world for the Black Lives Matter movement with Gen Z at the forefront. Similarly, around a month ago, university students across the UK took to the streets demanding for improved student well-being.
Young people are undeniably at the core of many progressive movements today. As a university student myself, I would like to share some lessons for what all of us can do to continue staying involved and pushing for radical changes.
1. Diversify your feed by following informative, intersectional, and international accounts.
Thanks to social media, we can listen to millions of stories from all over the world. By listening to each other and learning from other experiences, we can become more aware about issues that affect people from all walks of life.
For this reason, I push myself to follow a range of accounts that share information and experiences that I otherwise would not have been exposed to. For example, I’m British and I follow several accounts on Instagram of Native American/Indigenous American people, such as @tiamiscihk and @wapahkesis, who often share their heritage, which we know have been oppressed for hundreds of years in the U.S.
It is easy to only follow accounts that discuss topics that you are already familiar with, but that will only narrow your perspective rather than widen it. By following a range of accounts from all over the world that explore a variety of topics, I allow my mind to be exposed to new cultures, beliefs, and movements.
Another example is the University of Manchester Feminist Collective (UoM Feminist Collective), which utilises social media to educate its followers about intersectional issues. Penny, co-deputy chair of the society, shares that “social media, especially Instagram, has allowed us [the UoM Feminist Collective] to reach people all over the world with infographics on important issues in an easy to understand and accessible way. We’ve raised awareness for issues such as Polish women fighting for their reproductive rights, debunking harmful myths about transgender people, and the severity of racism in the UK, to educate our followers using facts and statistics that they may otherwise not have learnt about from the mainstream media.”
2. Read an article every day.
Spending 10 minutes or so a day reading one article has exposed me to new issues that I otherwise would not have known about. (And I always ensure that I get my news from reliable sources with an intersectional lens to broaden my perspective on the world.)
My favourite media outlet is Gal-Dem, due to its diverse set of writers that explore perspectives and experiences typically underrepresented in mainstream media. For example, one Gal-Dem article exposed me to the situation in India, in which millions peacefully protesting against new farm laws were met with tear gas and water cannons by the security forces. Since there has been little to no mainstream media coverage of these events, my article a day rule has enabled me to educate myself on an issue I otherwise would not have known about.
3. Educate others using your own online accounts.
If you want to go one further, if you want to get even more involved in a global way, a good place to start is using our voices and sharing our own stories on social media. Whether it’s starting a blog to share your culture or creating infographics on Canva about an experience you have had, sharing personal stories will almost always make an impact.
For example, I wrote an article about my experience with anorexia in 2017. The article resulted in me getting several messages from strangers who shared how much my article had helped them in their own journey to recovery. (By the way, I want to emphasise that it is never your responsibility to educate others on your experiences, whether it be racial microaggressions or abuse trauma. It is always the responsibility of others to research these experiences themselves using the limitless resources that are already out there.) However, if you do want to and are able to share your experience, I’m here to tell you that you should!
The most impactful power that we all hold is our voices, so don’t be ashamed to use it.
4. Listen and learn.
Thanks to the pandemic, we have become more reliant and creative with technology than ever. There are hundreds of Q&As, discussions, speeches, and more being held across various media platforms, which are usually recorded and thus available to watch as many times as you want.
During the first lockdown of the UK, I spent hours watching YouTube documentaries about the animal cruelty carried out by SeaWorld and other marine parks. I also signed up to Zoom Q&As about how we can protect our suffering planet, discovered new podcasts about how colonialism is the root to most of our problems, and broadened my perspective watching TED Talks on just about anything.
Thanks to the wonders of technology, we can listen to and/or watch wherever and whenever. (Like usually, I’ll put on an online discussion whilst cooking or doing laundry or going for a walk.) Listening to others’ experiences is the most important way that we can make an impact and today, we have access to millions of experiences from anywhere and anyone.
5. Get creative with your research.
In between studying and navigating adulthood, I dedicate time to educating myself on topics underreported in the media. Right now, I’m learning about the rise of anti-Semitism and the movement against fatphobia. I aim to make an effort to research something new at least once a month, as a rule of thumb, to stay aware and educated.
Sometimes, a topic will spark an idea in my head, which I will write about in my blog or pitch to a media outlet.
There is also an infinite number of ways in which we can get creative as we educate ourselves. I’ve seen artists produce pieces that build on what they have learned and researched. I’ve also seen poets who rearticulate what they have learned in their poetry. I think by getting creative, research and learning will be less like a dull, never-ending university assignment and more like an interesting hobby.
6. Conversation equals change.
The most important and accessible way in which we can make an impact is talking to others. It is easy to get stuck on our views thanks to social media’s algorithm and the mainstream that only shows us what we want to see and keeps us ignorant and unaware of issues around the world. Talking with another and engaging in healthy discourse can evolve our mindsets, since we all have different experiences that play a role in how we were shaped by our society.
By evolving our mindsets through conversations, we therefore also have the power to evolve our society, which, as evident by the ongoing police brutality in the U.S. and the protests in India, amongst other issues, still has a long way to go. We must challenge our current beliefs and that of others through conversation if we really want to see a change.
As young adults, we do not always have much money and time — but we know that there are many ways in which we can bring about change. I think it is important that you find what works for you and keep a check on your own well-being. It has certainly been a difficult year for everyone, but we must not let that discourage us from making an impact.
Every little bit of research, conversation, artwork (and more) counts in the movement to make this world a better place for both us and future generations.
Isabella Lock (she/her) is a freelance journalist and student at the University of Manchester studying Spanish and Japanese. She regularly writes for her blog and The Mancunion. All of Isabella’s published work can be found in her portfolio. She can be reached on Twitter at @isabellalock_, on Instagram at @isabellalock_, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.