The Kids Are All Right: How Social Media Created a Generation of Activists

This week marked the nation’s inaugural  “Giving Tuesday,” a UN sponsored initiative, which utilized social media to encourage businesses, schools, and community members to give back. The effort resulted in $10 million worth of donations made in a single day, a 53 percent increase over the same day last year.

Conceived as a means to promote activism and charity, the campaign’s use of social media to spread its message is most likely a large part of the initiative's success. 

Certainly people from every age group use Twitter and Facebook, but social media activism is especially resonant with young adults. According to TBWA, people between the ages of 18-29 strongly identify as activists and count social media as their first point of engagement when they learn about a new cause.

MORE: 'Tis Always the Season to Give: Creating a Corporate Culture That Gives Back

In fact, about half believe that activism is important to their personal identity and about a third look to it as a means of socializing and relating to one another.

But more than identifying with activism, this younger generation’s aptitude for social media can effect real change. Look at the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Earlier this year, when the organization announced it would pull its funding for breast cancer screenings from Planned Parenthood, cutting off medical access for millions of women, Twitter and Facebook lit up with vitriolic statements, claiming the organization had become a puppet of the religious right. The ensuing bad press proved to be too much and within days, the organization reversed its decision and issued a public apology.

Similarly, when Florida law enforcement officials refused to arrest George Zimmerman after he fatally shot Trayvon Martin, the case lay dormant for almost a month. But an online petition started by Martin’s parents went viral and galvanized a nation demanding justice for the boy’s death. Zimmerman was arrested and charged as a result.

For all we hear about “kids these days” and their irresponsible use of social media−posting questionable pictures of themselves doing kegstands or letting Twitter corrode their ability to hold a thought for more than a nanosecond−it turns out that most are using it to express a genuine passion for changing the world around them. And they’re succeeding.

And these trends extend well beyond the U.S. That same age group in other countries shows similar interests in contributing to larger causes. China’s young adults for instance, lead the world in online political discussions and offline they donate the most money to charities. India’s younger generation ranks the first in the world when it comes to staying informed, and they’re the most optimistic about the impact their activism has on the world around them.

It seems that our youngest generation of adults are the ones leading the charge when it comes to effectively making a difference.

Do you consider yourself an activist? Let us know in the Comments what social causes inspire you to get involved.

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A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer.  In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for Email Andri | @andritweets |