As the new year rolled around, many of us took to social media platforms, be it Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook (if anyone even uses that anymore?) to reflect upon the past year and our goals moving forward. Several of us also used these platforms to talk about how politics, policies, and events across the world (the good, the bad, and the ugly) have shaped our lives, the decade, and humanity as a whole.
Social media is more accessible than ever. We’re no longer limited to desktop computers, or even to laptops, with smartphones giving us constant access to the internet. For many of us, our phones are the first thing we see when we open our eyes in the morning and the last thing we see when we go to bed at night. Chances are, you’re reading this blog on your mobile phone, and either Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram brought you here.
The world is in a very interesting (scary?) place, with natural catastrophes, economic fluctuation, developmental challenges, and several other imminent dangers and threats for us to worry about. But what does this have to do with social media, how you use your phone, or what you tweet?
Thought you’d never ask!
High-profile organizations around the world use their online presence to speak directly to their target audience, all with the click of a button. But we can all use that same click of a button to inspire, motivate and — drumroll, please — advocate for and on behalf of people and causes.
Advocacy is a distinct form of civic engagement, and it’s often seen as a first step or complement to direct action or civic activism. Effective advocacy increases people’s ability to make institutions more responsive to human needs, and it influences public policy and resource allocation. So it’s important that you do it.
But how do you do it? Well, tweeting or posting articles about issues you care about is a good start, but you can also use social media to promote non-profit organizations who share your values. Nonprofits (like OUSA) advocate for underrepresented or underprivileged groups and promote positive change in public policy. The more you engage with these organizations, the more you can help them achieve their goals. Fifty-five percent of people who engage with non-profits on Twitter end up taking some sort of action (sharing the tweet, donating, etc.). This is a phenomenal benchmark of engagement within the sector, but there’s always room for improvement.
Nonprofits rely on a diverse network of supporters on social media. This network brings together individuals, organizations, and stakeholders, giving them a chance to share information and collaborate. That includes folks like you and me, who are on our phones tweeting and sharing advocacy initiatives and causes we care about. From spreading information to raising awareness, and from petitions to crowdfunding, social media can dictate the path and momentum of social causes. It can help make real, lasting change in our world.
So here’s my call to action. While some people may vow to decrease the amount of time they spend on their phone, I challenge you to instead use your phone more wisely and more effectively. Retweet someone’s cause. Share that informative video on your Instagram story. You possess, in your hands, the power to share information with people who might care about the same causes you do, and who might also want to help. So, no, Mom, I am not (just) aimlessly watching YouTube videos on my phone — I’m spreading awareness and supporting causes that I’m passionate about.