Gen Z is the most socially aware generation to have ever existed. Period.
But while many may take this as a humblebrag, it is charged with a lot more nuance than may initially meet the eye.
Before continuing, this must be said- activism is very important. Considering the hyper-partisan and consequential climate of our media-centric world, being both informed about injustices and taking appropriate action against them is key to staying a socially conscious individual.
That being said, social issues are simply too distressing for constant activism to be sustainable. Reading about climate change, debates over border control, and police brutality take a lot out of a person.
People need to take breaks from activism. Whether it be through lighthearted entertainment or easing it on the scrutiny, distractions are necessary to keep people sane- and that’s okay.
Some may argue this, saying something along the lines of there being “too many serious issues with the world” to focus on matters as inconsequential as, say, entertainment. But while this makes sense, many underestimate the effect constant news and awareness have on the societies of today.
This is to be expected. After all, with activism comes an awareness of all the negativities permeating societal integrity. Being aware of said events and proactively preventing their reccurrence is what the world ‘activism’ entails. However, it comes with its consequences. Whether it be an added sense of agitation, the constant urge to debate with others, or the mere fact of mental dedication, being an activist is tiring.
With the sheer breadth of social issues taking over our world, it is impossible for everyone to keep up with them all. It would be far too difficult for all issues to get equal amounts of attention, especially with personal matters and leisure time. People are more than their activism, and no one should feel guilty for taking time away from it to focus on themselves.
When I go on either Instagram or Tumblr, a variety of posts come on my feed. I see memes, discussions about political candidates, photos of my favorite K-pop artists… the list goes on. On the other hand, the daily news always seems to cover something about the Mueller report, Trump’s latest tweet, and the latest bashing on X or Y presidential candidate. It certainly is great to keep track of governmental affairs, whether they be triumphs or shortcomings (though the latter definitely gets more screen time). However, I definitely not alone in saying that they can be very upsetting to think about. What more hearing about them constantly?
This kind of hyper-awareness can encourage feelings of bleakness and dread in thinking about the country, ultimately creating a sense of hopelessness. The anxiety this generates is troublesome, to say the least.
But this goes to outline the very beauty of social media- as a reflection of the human psyche, topics vary. Not one thing is the same. If my feed were to be clogged with posts detailing the latest crime or rally, my mind would likely linger on that. I say this not to detract from the importance of such events, but instead to gently remind people of this one thing: being an activist doesn’t mean that it should become all that you are.
In fact, I believe that all activists should strive to find themselves before becoming advocates. In finding issues to be passionate about, people need to take the time to reevaluate their own values and beliefs.
Even then, sometimes those beliefs don’t necessarily align with the people around them. That is fine as well. Advocating for your cause and trying to get more people on your side should not be necessary for you to coexist with others. In the end, finding common ground trumps total agreement.
This kind of interpersonal positivity has is almost obsolete in today’s day and age, especially between people of differing political-leanings and ideologies. Sometimes it’s nice to put those aside and find the person beneath that, however further in they may be. Sometimes it feels great to invest time into more ‘shallow’ things. Not only will these kinds of breaks give people better outlooks on life, but they will also help regulate mindsets. This calmness may be unfounded in today’s overvaluing of intensity and extremism, but now more than ever is it incredibly important.
That being said, people shouldn’t completely isolate themselves from social awareness. What has been said up until this point has been somewhat idealist. The status quo is riddled with toxic systemic prejudices. Completely dismissing injustice and choosing to be blind does nothing but invalidate the injustices of the many victims around the world- victims who have no choice but to make their lives about their predicaments.
Activists should strive to be multi-faceted. They should be able to invest their time in thinking about both the good, bad, and lighthearted bits of the world. A person isn’t any less of an activist in choosing to stop scrolling through the #news feed every once in a while. Everyone has their limits, and exhausting them for the sake of ‘wokeness’ is never worth it.
After all, what good is being woke when coupled with hopelessness?