August 14, 2013

Rachael Ward

People Power. It’s a nice notion, isn’t it?

Friends of mine recently staged a protest at school, arguing that they should finish school at 1 pm instead of 3.20 pm on the afternoon of their formal. What started out as a chain email sent out to a few members of their year level, escalated into 200 students sitting down on the footy pitch one Friday afternoon. It worked; the Principal entered into ‘negotiations’ with the leadership team and they finished at lunchtime on the big day.

Other than ‘that one time’ at school, it seems that unless you’re old enough to be a ‘grown up’  you’ve got no real power for change. Many of us can’t drink, vote, drive or even dream about getting enough cash together to buy our first car. But that doesn’t mean young people have to coast along for the next few years until we’ve ‘grown up’ and are capable of making a difference. All you need is one of those nifty little gadgets known as a computer, and you’re on the path to make a difference.

How? Social media.

Yes, that thing your parents use to publicly humiliate you by posting ‘gorgeous pic xxxxxxx’ on all you photos if you made the mistake of accepting their friend request. ALL.OF.THEM.

It’s also that scary place where some individuals use a large audience for illegal or immoral purposes, such as distributing pirated films or posting sexually explicit pictures. But that’s got a lot more to do with the person than the technology at hand. And that’s definitely what the minority use it for.

The Arab Spring was nicknamed the ‘Twitter* revolution’ because activists took to social media to express their views and connect with other like-minded revolutionaries. The same social media sites we use every day to show our friends what we ate for lunch were used to help bring down dictators and oppressive regimes on the other side of the world. With that in mind, just imagine what you can do from the comfort of your own living room!

There’s no longer the excuse that you’re not able to get out there and ‘have a go’, nor the excuse age will hold you back. You’re got the ability to lobby, SPAM and -dare I say it- stalk people in the public sphere who can voice your own concerns what’s happening in the world to a larger audience.

You can also start you own movements on issues you feel particularly strongly about, just like my friends did.

Don’t want that tree to be cut down in the park? Start an online petition and get everyone you know in the virtual world to sign it.

Feel the need to express your rage on  how unfair VCE can be? Write an article or letter smashing their arguments to pieces, and get it published online.

Just realised you’ve got the most amazing jokes that will reach out to kids feeling less-than-loved right now? Create a web podcast and post it to some online forums.

Feel like people don’t know what it’s like to really walk a mile in your shoes? Create a video and upload it to you tube.

Hate the way the media keeps going on and one about how Gen-Y and Gen-Z are lazy, stupid, blah, blah, blah…. Well then prove them wrong.

You’ve got tools at your disposal to make an impact, however small, on the world around you.

Go forth and type like your life depends on it. You never know, one day you might look back on the changes you made as a teenager and smile. From the office of the Prime Minister.

*Hillary Clinton just got twitter. People, she’s practically a god. It may or may not be my life’s ambition to count her among my twitter followers.

– Rachael Ward

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