Why Being A Teenage Activist Is More Important Than Ever
I'm 17 years old, and I would be nowhere near who I am today without the internet.
My exposure to social media has had a massive influence on my views and opinions, both positively and negatively. It's ridiculous, but increasingly, the media, popular culture and the general public have been making out as though young people have no idea what is going on, and that we don’t particularly care, either. We’re deemed the “lazy” and “incompetent” generation that is way too attached to their phones, when in reality, we are the generation that uses technology to distribute information, discuss our opinions, and talk about the things that matter to us. Sure, we all like to laugh at Vines every once in awhile, but when it comes down to it, millennials have helped create ways for feminists, animal rights groups, racial activists, and the LGBT community to discuss their ideas in ways that we can all engage with and make a difference—through the help of the Internet.
Subsequently there has been a large increase in girls who identify as feminists and teens who engage in political conversations. It has also increased awareness for political topics such as racial equality and has amplified the #BlackLivesMatter movement. We're fighting for our beliefs, our faith. Even if I wanted to, I am currently unable to become British Prime Minister because of my religion. Yet while the older generation are saying it's too politically tense and avoid the issue, our generation sees it as an opportunity for change. For modernisation. We want to see the world change with us, and overthrow pre-conceived ideas about society and our world that are long outdated. One of my favourite bloggers recently started the #GiveElsaAGirlfriend hashtag (asking Disney to give Elsa a girlfriend in the sequel to Frozen), and it grew so big overnight it was on the morning news. It's about the importance of making sure our children grow up recognising that love is love in all its forms.
Without young people and their phones, many cases of inequality, sexism and police brutality would go unnoticed. It's not only adults who are fighting against these issues but teenagers, too. The @girlsagainst movement, standing up against sexual harassment at concerts, is led by a group of teenage girls. We spread information as fast as humanly possible about these issues because we genuinely care and because we are capable of doing so. We're using the platforms we've been given and ones we’ve built ourselves to unanimously shout together about the issues facing our generation and what we want and need to be done about them. When I started my blog I didn't imagine that it would reach an audience of over 1 million people, before we even factor in twitter, instagram and tumblr. I've never been overly political on my blog, but I know that the majority of you reading this are teenagers who want to talk about the world, who want to make a difference, and who use social media and the internet to do so. We're live-tweeting election debates, giving our loud and rebellious opinions, and listening to the views of people of all ages, all around the world. And maybe all we want is for the other side, the older generations, our political leaders and teachers and policy makers, to do the same.
Teenage activism is so important. now more than ever before because right now, teenagers, millennials, young people — we are the unheard generation. We're shouting at the top of our lungs and yet it feels like nothing is done unless we take it upon ourselves to make it happen. We teenagers — just a bunch of “kids who only care about Instagram filters and Snapchat” — have made a huge difference in the way young people relate to and impact the world around them. We’re constantly trying to teach and influence more and more young people to get out and vote, to stand up for equality, and become activists for the causes they believe in. I've grown up so much more culturally aware as a result of the internet, which allows me to share my thoughts and experiences with people clear across the world. If it ever occurs to older generations that we DO care, it’s to a tremendously shallow degree. We see it in politicians, who think acting like a “relatable teen” will win over our votes. It’s all good for a laugh, but we expect more from our leaders than just popping up in a music video or using terms like “squad” and “on fleek” to get us to go out and cast a vote in their favour. What we want is someone who will recognise the engagement we already have in politics, in animal rights, in equality and treat us like adults. We want to discuss the EU, tuition fees, minimum wage, climate change, taxes, and things that will directly affect our lives and our future. We have amazing ideas, and you can see our impact and energy in protests, marches, rallies and most prominently online.
Our main issue is that young people’s ideas are constantly invalidated because we are far more progressive than our grandparents, but that’s the point. We need progression, and just because we want our future to be one that reflects us doesn't make us less intelligent than anyone else. We are currently in a time where minimum wage just isn’t enough, and no matter how hard we work, we can’t afford university without the support of our parents. Before we know it, we’re drowning in student debt we’re supposed to be paying off with jobs that just aren’t there. But we are rising above and debating these issues, and we want our voices to be heard. We are ready to be taken seriously. We are shaping the future of our world, and so far, I like the way our future looks in the hands of teenage activists, who are politically engaged, who are ready and willing to fight for positive change. This is our time now. Let's make it count.