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Social Media, the Youth and the Environment

From violence, extinction of plant and animal species, hunger, pollution, environmental degradation to global pandemics such as global warming, climate change and the COVID-19 now ravaging the world, there is no denying that the world is ailing. And like anything that’s ailing, the world needs healing. And this healing should be administered urgently. 

However, the question of how to go about healing the world is one that has nagged me for a while and the best I have come up with is that the healing can be done through enlightenment – enlightening ourselves; enlightening the world. This is precisely because enlightenment results in understanding and the spread of knowledge that sparks concern and inspires action. Enlightenment cures our ignorance and blindness to the challenges around us and opens our eyes to solutions. 

But how can we enlighten and be enlightened? How can we gain and spread knowledge, skills, ideas and information? Fortunately, there are a number of avenues and platforms: classroom, books, magazines, radio, television, newspapers and so on. Among the existing platforms is one that has gained traction, since early 2000, and provided the best possible way to reach and interact with masses and form lasting connections: the social media.

Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat – has enabled users to create and share content capable of reaching millions, if not billions, of people across the world without having to wade through thickets of rules and bureaucratic processes as is the case with traditional media. This means we can now educate, raise awareness, empower and spread critical information at the click of a button. It is this power of social media that we should tap into to address the challenges we are facing today, key among them, environmental destruction. 

To understand the potential of social media, let us look at the numbers. The world population currently stands at 7.8 billion people. Out of this, the number of social media users worldwide is estimated to be over 3 billion people. Facebook alone boasts of about 2.5 billion monthly active users at the moment. Majority of the users (over 90% in some platforms) are under 35 years old – the youth. See how many can be reached with environmental content via social media? See how much can be done or attitudes and behaviours can be influenced through social media? 

Education (read enlightenment), Nelson Mandela said, is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world. Through education, we can reverse global warming, stop extinction, reduce poverty and hunger, foster coexistence, end inequality and create a sustainable, livable planet. The youth, therefore, being the most active users as well the demographic that is likely to be the most affected by the consequences of our actions on the environment should capitalize on the opportunity presented by social media to build an enlightened populace. 

Beyond educating, empowering, spreading crucial information and raising awareness on critical issues, social media has created an enormous opportunity for personal growth. Through social media, LinkedIn for instance, you can network and interact with people you admire or experts in your industry or other sectors; establish your niche and build your brand; and learn from thought leaders in various areas.

Unfortunately, despite the opportunities presented, most young people ignore the potent power of social media to transform the world and instead, driven by the desire for fame, resort to sharing non-useful content, showing off lifestyles (they mostly don’t lead) in an attempt to impress (people who seldom care), overindulge in entertainment or, in worst cases, abuse the platforms by trolling others, promoting violence, perpetuating crime, spreading propaganda and fake news and so on. 

To avoid these pitfalls, here are a few tips to make good use of social media:

  • Follow or connect with experts in your field or people passionate about a topic you are interested in.
  • Avoid sharing alarmist news or information
  • Fact check information before sharing. Do some research. Authenticate the source. 
  • Keep your social media page clean. Avoid posting dirty stuff. Use clean language. 
  • Be considerate of other people’s views. If you do not agree with someone, do not insult, instead, provide alternative views with objectivity and thoughtfulness. 
  • Be honest always. Avoid trying to impress. Be you. 
  • Strive to inspire and influence people positively. 
  • Acknowledge the source of the content you are sharing. Avoid copying and pasting without giving due credit to the original author or creator. 
  • Share messages of hope and optimism 
  • Keep messages simple, concise and to the point
  • Share information that inspires and encourages individual as well as mass action 
  • Run a campaign to call for action against environmental challenges. For instance, Kenya Environmental Education Network is gearing up to run a campaign dubbed Keep Kenya Clean and Green to promote sanitation and tree planting.  

Jay Shetty is an example of one person using social media to motivate and inspire the world. His mantra, making wisdom go viral, has seen him produce and share enlightening video content. Perhaps we should do to the environment and wildlife what Jay Shetty is doing to human relationships and mindsets. 

Who are some of the young environmentalists using social media to inform and promote environmental action?