Local professor speaks on social media’s impact on spreading social movements

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Whether through live-streams, posting pictures, or hashtags–social media has played a huge role in the movement sweeping across the nation.

A Northern Illinois University professor spoke about technology’s part in spreading the Black Lives Matter message. He said it helps in more than one way.

On “Blackout Tuesday,” millions of black squares dominated Instagram–signalling a call for silence. That was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to social media’s role in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“All these big reports from the Kerner Commission in ’68, from the Roberts Commission in ’92, all of them talk about poverty, unequal education, unemployment, all these underlying factors that we still haven’t addressed,” explained Dr. Simón Weffer of the NIU Department of Sociology.

Dr. Weffer teaches classes on race and social movements at Northern Illinois University.

“On some level the conditions were always there, waiting for the precipitory event, which in this case was the death of Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis,” he added.

Dr. Weffer said that recent demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd are similar to American civil rights movements of the past–except for one key tool: social media.

“It’s interesting social media can be so effective as an organizing tool. How can you get so many people together?” Weffer said.

From catchy hashtags to coordinating protests and marches, Weffer said the advent of social media allows messages of change to reach a greater audience.

“There’s much more diversity in who is allying and working with the African American community to voice their distress, to voice their displeasure of what’s happening.”

Reaching a larger network does come with a cost, however.

“Just merely trying to show support with a hashtag and a picture can create divisiveness. It’s the double edged sword of social media, as much as it can spread information and positivity to make change, it can also be used in a much more destructive way as well,” Dr. Weffer added.

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