Climate crisis exposure on social media is the first step to saving the planet

The same aspects of social media that make it so alluring to users also make it a powerful tool to promote meaningful climate action. 
At their best, social networking sites do more than overcome the limitations of time and distance. They can help close power gaps by offering everyone equal access to share their stories, connect like-minded people, and mobilize individuals united by a shared purpose, such as fighting sexual harassment through the #MeToo movement. 
Given the immediate and far-reaching nature of the Internet, these platforms also work faster and more effectively than traditional approaches to social activism.  
Social media also breaks down age, income, and education level barriers. It brings science, information, and policy from the realm of academia to the mass public, opening important conversations for those who may otherwise be left in the dark. 
The movement of information through social networks is often seen as responsible for the spread of fake news or propaganda. However, more often than not, it inspires deeper conversations, attention and outcry, and real action surrounding issues that matter. 
There’s no better example of this than the climate action that’s been taken in recent months, led by young leaders who have used social networking sites to elevate their voices and reach massive audiences. 
Teens have helped spearhead the trend of replacing single-use plastic straws with metal ones by posting short videos on apps like TikTok and Instagram. Young climate activists like Greta Thunberg, Autumn Peltier, and Isra Hirsi have advocated for immediate climate action and inspired people across the globe to strike and demand change.   
At Queen’s, Facebook played an important role in rallying hundreds to strike last Friday to call for the University to divest from fossil fuels, reduce waste on campus, and retrofit its buildings. Now the campus coffee shop and café, Common Ground, has put out an online petition to end the use of disposable cups on campus, which has already garnered over 1,000 signatures. 
This isn’t all to say that social media is the sole answer to the climate crisis—we still need to vote, advocate, protest, and change our own habits—but it’s definitely part of the solution. 
Like almost everything else in life, social media is what we make of it. We can choose to condemn it as a hotbed for fake news and escapism, or leverage it to address the most pressing global issue of our lifetimes: the climate emergency.
Ally is The Journal’s Lifestyle Editor. She’s a fourth-year English student.

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