The recent surge in the Black Lives Matter movement has not only served as a global push for positive change and police reform, but it has uncovered the liaison between political movements and social media. The Black Lives Matter movement, similar to the Me Too movement that preceded it, was largely publicized and catalyzed by social media. Whether in the form of a hashtag or a trending slogan, recent political movements have relied heavily on social media to not only gain traction but to spread their core ideas and messages across the globe.
But, who is responsible for this mobilization? You guessed it: Gen Z.
Generation Z, those born between 1995 and 2015, has gained notoriety in recent years for being “online trolls” or “keyboard warriors.” Now, more than ever amidst this global pandemic, Gen Z is relying more and more on social media to fill empty days and to satisfy a short attention span. TikTok, a video-sharing social networking service, has gained an absurd amount of popularity since quarantine began, with over half of its users representing Generation Z. Sure, some choose to spend hours mindlessly scrolling through the app (myself included), but the majority of Gen Z users have actually turned to TikTok in an unconventional way: to make political statements and initiate movements around the globe.
Most remarkably, Donald Trump’s recent rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, only had 6,200 attendees despite over one million seat reservations: only the canny, social media-adept Gen Z could be behind this audacious prank. In just a matter of weeks in advance of Trump’s rally, Gen Z bought out thousands of tickets to the Trump rally, massively curtailing the turnout. Tickets were limited to two per person, so teenagers across the world registered with fake phone numbers, spread the message on social media to encourage their peers to join, and some even contrived to get their parents into joining the movement. Despite beginning on Twitter, TikTok took this idea and ran with it, spreading the information quickly to TikTok’s millions of users. Ultimately, this scheme was incredibly successful and showed just how much power a seemingly harmless generation of teenagers can have on major political movements.
While the majority of Gen Z is too young to push for social and political changes on the voting ballot, social media has given them the unlikely podium to have their demands heard in a different way. Although the Tulsa rally scheme has come and gone, this is only the beginning for Generation Z.