Digital Activism Has Turned Into These Non-Profits Taking on Gen Z’s Biggest Causes
- Gen Z are starting their own activist movements on the social media platforms they know best
- Gen Z believes their generation can make a bigger difference in the world than politicians brands or celebrities
- Info posts are a popular way for Gen Z activists to educate viewers their own age
Gen Zs are growing up as social agents, whether organizing mass donations on TikTok, marching in the streets, or designing viral info posts. According to YPulse data, 94% of Gen Z are passionate about a social cause. While we know the causes that they’re most invested in, there is no end to what these causes are—young activists are bolstering support for everything from social inequality, to climate change, to improving mental health resources for their peers.
They don’t just follow the footsteps of the activists before them, though, as this gen is tackling issues in an entirely new landscape: online. They’re spearheading new groups through their favorite platforms, allowing them to reach across the world in their impact. Many of the activists they look to for inspiration aren’t those who have decades of experience, it’s those their age like Greta Thunberg (climate activist and founder of Fridays for the Future) and Matt Bernstein, who uses his Instagram platform to create open discussions about the lives of the LGBTQ+ community.
One reason they may be so eager to create their own groups is that they believe in themselves and others their age as change makers, more than anyone else. Our data shows that 51% of Gen Z believe their generation can make the biggest difference in the world, more than politicians, brands, or celebrities. Many are taking that belief and making it real, and they’re starting their own organizations (many social media-based) to create the change they want. Here are three to know:
Gen-Z FOR CHANGE
Gen Z activists know how to leverage social media for their causes. The non-profit Gen-Z For Change, which began as a coalition of TikTok creators, says their “timely explainer content”—mostly delivered on the app—is how they meet their audience “where they are with the information they need to make informed decisions in the voting booth.” Launched in 2020 (originally as TikTok for Biden), it joined activist groups and movements like March For Our Lives and Sunrise Movement, led by young people who want to protect their rights and create a better future for their generation. They encourage action through “content that hits more FYPs than our opponents.”
Their reach, 1.5M followers on TikTok alone, showed especially after news of the leaked draft opinion revealing the Supreme Court’s plans to overturn Roe v. Wade. Their posts on the topic racked up millions of views, informing their followers about what it means and recruiting them to get involved, even asking for coders to build systems that can crash future anti-abortion sites, especially in the states where abortions would be completely outlawed. YPulse research found that abortion / birth control is a social cause that young people are passionate about right now, and since that draft became a decision, the topic is on their minds more than ever.
Content is being pushed out constantly on their social media accounts, aiming “to shift the conversation left by engaging more young voters in progressive ideologies.” Through using both plain explanations and trending meme formats, Gen-Z For Change lets their followers feel connected to big causes they may not otherwise have known how to get involved with.
Gen Z has grown up on the internet and spent most of their lives on social media, but many are getting fed up and forming movements to promote healthier usage and hold Big Tech accountable. YPulse’s recent social media behavior report found that Gen Z spends over 4 hours on social media each day on average. According to JAMA Pediatrics research, 10-14-year-olds reported an average of 3.8 hours per day of screen time, excluding school work—but the figure rose to 7.7 hours in May 2020. And we’re seeing the impacts of this increase on the generation: young people tell YPulse that technology addiction is currently one of the biggest problems they’re facing, and tech addiction and social media are actually the top problems that Gen Z names.
While many teens feel like social media keeps them entertained and up-to-date with what is happening in the world, some feel more anxious and depressed as their dependence on their devices and platforms has increased. Emma Lembke, a 19-year-old freshman from Washington University, decided to take action by starting the LOG OFF movement in 2020 to create space for teens to talk about healthier usage of social media. Lembke initially created a blog for talking about the negative impacts social media had on her own life, which we’ve seen can be especially harsh for young females, but found that her friends were facing the same problems.
So far, the movement has engaged with thousands of teens across dozens of countries, with many worried about leaving their mental health up to the hands of Big Tech. Lembke—alongside Aliza Kopans, a student at Brown University—also formed Tech(nically) Politics. Like LOG OFF, the group is led by youth, but this group focuses on taking legal action to regulate Big Tech, like passing the Kids Internet Design and Safety Act (KIDS Act) that was reintroduced last fall.
Education is supremely important to young people, and YPulse’s Self-Taught trend research found that social media has become one of their biggest knowledge resources. In fact, 43% of Gen Z say they would go to social media, an online influencer, or YouTube if they wanted to learn about a social cause. Instagram info-posts are constantly going viral among young consumers to raise awareness and connect viewers with action items, because creating the resources to have informed conversations is key to many of their efforts.
ReDefy is a multifaceted non-profit which provides educational resources for, well, anyone. The informational materials available on their website range from a catalog of articles, which they say aren’t “afraid to address controversial subjects,” and neatly designed resource guides packaged up by topic or social issue, which serve as discussion and action starters for their chapters. They have also created campaigns around specific issues, like their Roots Campaign which aimed to improve conversations about teenagers mental health during the pandemic with info sheets, a webinar and an international penpal system.
Founded by Ziad Ahmed, now 23, in 2013 “because he was tired of seeing people in his hallways being defined by unfair stereotypes,” ReDefy is “by teenagers for teenagers.” Chapters have been formed around the globe with the common goal to educate and make change. More than ever, young people’s concerns are as global as they are local, with 70% considering themselves global citizens, according to YPulse research.