It has always been the youth to shake things up. From the Vietnam protests to Tiananmen Square, it has been young people who have been the catalyst for many moments of social change and expressions of resistance. This moment in time is no different, with millennials and Generation Z leading the charge and transforming activism into a form moulded for this new technological age.
It is without debate that the sharp increase in feats of activism from young people is in direct correlation with the historic events that took place in 2016, from the Brexit vote in June to the US presidential election in November.
The results of both were a reckoning to many young that the world was heading in a different direction than anticipated and it no longer felt comfortable not taking any action.
So, there is an upside to all this upheaval taking place in the world right now. It has inspired young people to ruse up and find issues they care about. The events of 2016 spurred on a wave of activism, let by young people disillusioned with institutions and frustrated by the direction our society is headed in.
A key moment of youth activism was March four Our Lives, an entirely student-let protest to demand gun control legislation and bring awareness to gun violence in America. It resulted in the third largest march in US history.
Here in the UK, The Pink Protest was created to form a community of activists with the aims of making activism more accessible to young people. The Pink Protest’s mission manifested in the #FreePeriods campaign of last year, created by the teenage activist Amika George. It called for an end to British period poverty and culminated in a demonstration outside Downing Street last December. The campaign resulted in £1.5 million being given to address period poverty by the UK government.
This new germination has created a wave of socially engaged young people, eager to use their buying power and social media presence for good. From #BlackLivesMatter to #LoveWins and #MeToo, social media has changed the meaning and the practice of activism.
It is no longer needed to solely take to the streets to make an impact. It is now easier and more productive to reach greater numbers of people through a screen. Activism is no longer a scary or unattainable notion but a democratic concept that anyone can find their place in.
It is hard to not engage without feeling left behind. It is easy to feel like you are not informed enough, not intelligent enough, not political enough to feel like you are worthy of taking part. Activism does not require sweeping grand gestures, it can be as simples and modest as following activists on social media and liking and sharing posts to start conversations in your own communities.
Start small, and open yourself up to other opinions as it will only serve to strengthen what you really think. Look across the university to see what societies and campaigns are taking place. Look for issues that you get annoyed about and educate yourself.
This is such a historic time both socially and politically and there is no better time to stand up and get involved.
Illustration: Hannah Robinson