Dhathry Doppalapudi | Torrey Pines High School Senior
On February 23, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed black man, was shot and killed while he was jogging in a Georgia suburb. His killers were a white father-son duo that followed Arbery in their truck for several minutes before shooting him. They were not arrested until May, over two months after murdering Arbery. The arrests came only after a graphic video of Arbery’s shooting, one that the police have had since February, was leaked and caused widespread outrage and pressure on the police. Along with celebrities, artists, and politicians, many teenagers went to social media to express their intense anger and grief about Arbery’s death and the lack of arrests, demonstrating how social media has become a powerful tool in social activism.
Mirabel, a sophomore at Torrey Pines High School, first learned about Arbery’s death on Twitter in early May, when the video was leaked. “I started to see a lot of social media stuff about it and I think it was cool to see a lot of people taking interest in it,” she said. “Even my friends at school were posting about it on Instagram.”
Torrey Pines senior Bea says she first found about Ahmaud Arbery after seeing the video of his death on civil rights activist Shaun King’s Instagram account. “I don’t usually get my news from social media because I don’t always know how accurate it is, but this was all over social media and which kind of forced me to pay attention to it, which is good,” she said.
Social media platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and TikTok allow users to post about news that matters to them and likely matters to their friends and followers as well. “It’s a lot easier to hear about stuff on social media because people can spread and share stories and bring attention to these things very quickly,” Mirabel said.
Bea agreed. “If it hadn’t been for the fact that that video had just exploded and gone viral, I don’t even know if the father and son who shot Ahmaud would have ever been arrested,” she said. “It also opened a lot of people’s eyes, especially teenagers, to the amount of racially charged violence there is in this country.”
There is no doubt that the typical teenager spends a lot of time on social media. While this is often perceived as a bad thing, she actually learns a lot by being active on these platforms, Mirabel said. “One of the good things about social media is that we can find a community of people who care about these things as much as we do and who can teach us things, and I think that’s very powerful.”
Right now is an important time in the world and for teenagers, it’s an important time in our own lives. Our social media is the way that we stay connected to each other while being physically isolated. But not only does it help us keep in touch with our friends, it’s a powerful way for us teenagers to increase our political awareness and become more outspoken about the issues that we care about.