Before the advent of mainstream online media, the mobilisation of activist movements was facilitated via word-of-mouth, with supporters of a cause rallying together in physical locations. Today, the landscape of activism looks very different.
Online platforms have flung open the channels of mass communication, bringing together far larger and more globally diverse groups of people in digital forums that cross borders and defy cultural and language barriers. The reach of activist movements has expanded exponentially, with digital being used as a tool to build globally connected communities.
We have seen this waking era on TikTok’s environmentally ‘woke’ subculture, represented by the hashtag: #ClimateAction, which has amassed over 887 million views and is associated with content and discussion around issues of environmental awareness and climate change. For eco-activists, another popular community is #GreenTok, which is used as a channel to promote greener, more responsible living.
In South Africa, conversations around greener living have materialised in different ways across different sectors. In the fashion space, for example, content creators are demonstrating exceptional levels of talent and ecologically-driven innovation. Creator, cardishoprite turns Shoprite plastic bags into fashion items. Creator, bhumehldiaries does the same with Woolworths shopping bags. This ecologically-conscious movement extends across beauty, food, dance and public speaking content, united by the same powerful message.
While the voices of academics and climate experts also resound throughout the digital space, the emerging generation of eco-activists on social media are just as compelling to engage with. Those who have taken up the mantle of sustainability are making a worthy contribution to the greater cause through conversation and education.
Their large followings online and the thought-provoking, entertaining nature of their content plays an instrumental role in influencing the ‘talkability’ of these issues and the lifestyle choices of their peers - a new era of edutainment. In turn, professionals, corporate and political leaders, lobbyists and more ‘conventional’ activists, now have a broader, more influential audience to speak to and collaborate with.
While we celebrate the emergence of eco-activists online, we do remain cognizant of the dangers of misinfomation and the spread thereof. As a platform, we work with third-party experts who bring credibility to the work that is done on our app. In 2021, we partnered with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Conservation International and the Kenyan Tourism Board to bring the Great Migration to the platform for millions of engaged users. The main aim of this informative digital event was to raise awareness around biodiversity conservation and inspire action in the area of wildlife protection – both are important sustainability objectives that contribute to the ‘bigger picture.’
It brings me great joy to witness the inclusion of African voices in conversations about the future wellbeing and preservation of the planet and its people. As a tech industry, we should collaboratively work together to continue to amplify these voices that represent the wider community that may not necessarily have a voice. With Africa being home to the second biggest population in the world, it is vital to include our people in the conversations that matter.
The writer is Interim Operations Lead at SSA TikTok