Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Social Media Activism Minor at USM

Sokkha Va

Posted on March 07, 2016 in Community
By USM Free Press

Katelyn Wiggins


By Raquel MIller

We live in an era of hashtag activism.  The internet has the power to connect individuals from around the world and allows people to connect in a way that doesn’t require their physical presence, but their spirit and passion, and in doing so, creates something larger and more magical than expected. When a group of people collectively and actively band together to create change or make their voices heard, the impact can be enormous.  It allows ideas to grow and conversation to be made until finally, something that began as a hashtag, can grow into a global movement.  

In 2015, USM’s political science program announced the addition of the social media activism minor, which combines classes from four different programs: communication and media studies, philosophy and political science–in order to enhance student understanding of social media and activism in its multiple forms.  

From the 2015-2016 course catalog, “Social media activism is a minor for students interested in combining their interest for engagement and activism in different environments through online media communication.”  

The new minor has a 15 credit minimum for requirement.  The minor does require students to take Critical Thinking about Social Issues, from the Sociology department, and Communication and Social Media, from Communication and Media Studies.  After completion of these classes, students have the freedom to choose from 10 different elective classes from all four departments and are encouraged to select courses from each department when completing their minor.    

In an era where Twitter and Facebook are thriving, and a picture or tweet can be circulated and shared within few clicks of a button, there is a lot to be said for social media activism.  

March of 2015, Alicia Garza, a founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, visited USM as the Women’s History Month keynote speaker, where she presented “Building a World Where Black Lives Matter.” Garza, while recalling her personal reaction to the news of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin in February 2012, revealed the story where #BlackLivesMatter became more than just a hashtag.     

“I tried to make sense of what was happening, and in doing so, you know… I went on Facebook.  It’s what we do now, right?  We don’t watch the news.  We go on Twitter and Facebook.”  

What she saw on her own social media, while some responses being comforting, a large amount were negative and she was not okay with that. In her own response, she wrote “a love letter to black folks,” over Facebook where she stated the famous words, “black lives matter.”  But, what she didn’t realize was how her words–black lives matter–would resonate with others.

“And then my sister Opal said, ‘This is touching me’ and ‘I think we need to build out platforms where people can connect with each other and share those stories because that is one way we will re-humanize each other.’”

The #BlackLivesMatter movement is the modern day exemplification of activism and only one of the ways in which communities of people can ignite movements, awareness, justice, and change.  

With the creation of the Social Media Activism Minor at USM, students now have the opportunity to further their own ideas and develop them in an academic setting which incorporates areas of thinking from four different departments.  

As USM tries to increase enrollment, the university does so by looking at the interests of students.  Associate Professor of Political Science, Dr. Francesca Vassallo, commented that “Nowadays, a lot of political engagement (official or not) relies on social media presence…Generally, students who [see] themselves [working] for political campaigns, leaders, parties, non profits and lobbies would benefit from [the Social Media Activism minor].”  

Students who realize the power that social media holds in society are students who can visualize the possibility to begin conversations and open up a dialogue about modern day issues, even in the upcoming presidential elections.  With this minor, students are given the tools to create change and raise awareness in modern day society where activism is no longer limited to  a single geographical location, but can begin in a small town with only one person, and expand nationally, or even globally, by connecting passionate individuals.  



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