Using Social Media as the Platform for Protesting in an Age of Social Distancing

By Zoey Shipley

Among the sea of online posts, hashtags like #ClimateStrikeOnline, and #FridaysForFuture continually pop up to show hundreds of videos and photos where people are coming together to protest in a new way. This new form of climate protest being taken on during the global pandemic is quickly becoming a part of our new reality due to a crisis caused by our unsustainable practices.

Why This Matters: With the climate crisis intensifying and the real possibility of bailouts for oil and gas companies in the U.S., not to mention the threat of climate-related pandemics growing, this new online movement may revolutionize how protests take place. Numerous organizations, like the U.S. Youth Climate Strike Coalition, are shifting to online protests because of the risk of coronavirus spreading among large gatherings of climate activists. But the timing could not be worse.  Major events were planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the beginning of Earth Day. These movements have been shifted to online platforms, but we must not remain silent! We need to raise our voices even more now, collectively online.  

The Good and the Bad of Online Protests

Online protests offer the opportunity to be more inclusive for those that otherwise may not have been able to take part, create an opportunity for protesters to more easily articulate their message, and creates more opportunities to connect with others that you may not have otherwise; such as a fellow student protester on the other side of the world.

There are concerns with moving protests online though. One is that without a physical presence in public spaces, protests may become easier to ignore for global leaders that do not recognize the threat of climate change or people who were not already involved in the cause. “What you’re going to end up doing is amplifying within an echo chamber [online], which is really different from what the movement wants,” Dana Fisher, a professor of sociology at the University of Maryland told the New York Times.

How You Can Still Participate

Organizations like Earth Day Network, Earth Day Initiative, and March for Science NYC are hosting events online for people to still celebrate Earth Day. You can register for Earth Day Week (April 20th to the 24th) online climate conference to reach over 20 hours of discussions and events or register for Earth Day 50 Virtual Kick-Off (April 19th), where an “online broadcast will feature a lineup of public officials, scientists, activists, and entertainers discussing the urgency of climate action.”

Fridays for Future also lists steps you can take to stay active while remaining safe from coronavirus concerns. You can do things like posting a photo of you with a protest sign about why climate action is needed and use one of the hashtags mentioned above.

What You Can Do:  Join the online strike and make your voice heard!  Be sure to use @ourdailyplanet and #ClimateStrikeOnline in your tweet!  Help us spread the word about ODP – we want to see how fast we can get to 10,000 followers on Twitter!

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