Speaking from a platform

BVH community uses social media to spread political awareness

Advanced+Placement+%28AP%29+US+History+teacher+and+basketball+coach+Don+Dumas+primarily+uses+Twitter+to+voice+his+analysis+and+concerns+on+current+events.+He+describes+social+media+activism+among+students+favorably+and+hopes+it+will+inspire+societal+progress.

Isaac Lozano

Advanced Placement (AP) US History teacher and basketball coach Don Dumas primarily uses Twitter to voice his analysis and concerns on current events. He describes social media activism among students favorably and hopes it will inspire societal progress.

“His name was George Floyd,” one student’s Instagram post reads. 

“Her name was Breonna Taylor,” another reads in bolded text.

On others, blue stripes spell out “Cast your ballot and vote,” urging civic participation.

In the wake of social and political turmoil during the COVID-19 pandemic, social media use has surged among younger generations. At Bonita Vista High, many students have taken advantage of platforms like Instagram and Twitter to promote social justice and make their opinions heard.

Junior Bibiana Martinez is an avid social media user; her Instagram stories detail a flurry of resources and colorful infographics about racial, and other, disparities, reflecting her longtime passion for social justice. 

“I see my social media platform as a form of expression,” Martinez said. “I love that I can share information and pictures [of] what I [like]. I have always been active with activism in social media.”

Junior Bibiana Martinez’s post on Instagram showing a photo of Paddle for Peace, a peaceful protest she attended to honor the legacy of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man killed by police officers. Provided by Bibiana Martinez.

Martinez believes the pandemic amplified her political presence on Instagram. Her initiative mirrors the recent rise in social media usage for political purposes; one online study by Digital Commerce 360 found 49% of Americans have changed their posting behavior due to current events. For students like Martinez, social media represents a tool of advocacy for current events and issues.

“One of my favorite story posts is when I attended the Paddle for Peace protest and I posted a picture of it. I felt it was so inspiring how people come together peacefully and help create change,” Martinez said.

Junior Amara Corotan shares a similar commitment to various social justice causes, including Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ rights and antiracism. On Instagram and Snapchat, she reminds her followers to wear masks and be politically informed.

“I am thinking about other people [and] putting myself [in] their shoes. I think of it as being a megaphone for the voices that are not being heard. I have the privilege to use my voice in a way that emphasizes [the voices of] others,” Corotan said. 

Though Corotan has not received negative feedback for her political posts, she expresses disappointment that some people “hit snooze” on topics like abortion and sexual assault because they are unaffected by them.

“Selfish people cannot recognize their privilege,” Corotan said.

For Advanced Placement (AP) US History teacher and basketball coach Don Dumas, social media activism is personal. Dumas had a difficult childhood—his outcome seen as “life, death or in prison”—but by adulthood, he had become a teacher and an active member of his community. 

His internet posts, primarily on Twitter and Facebook, revolve around political issues, such as the justice system, and serve to uplift his students. Dumas is driven by his “love for all people”, a reflection of his empathy for students — many of whom are experiencing trials in their youth.

Junior Bibiana Martinez posts on Instagram a screenshot of an illustration encouraging people to wear masks for health reasons. Martinez believes masks should be worn to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Provided by Bibiana Martinez

“I have a deep sense of empathy and I don’t like to see people suffer. I suffered growing up and it created a lot of anger in me; I want to ease those burdens,” Dumas said. “I want my students to know that I care about them [and] I’m trying to lead by example.”

Beyond his personal sentiments, Dumas believes the rise in student advocacy on online networks represents a shifting tide among younger generations.

“It’s fantastic that [students] are participating in [online activism]. When I was that age, I didn’t care. But at 16, to give such poignant analysis that I see kids doing about the political climate today [is] fantastic. The young kids that care [are] so far ahead of the game,” Dumas said. 

As emotions run high amid governmental and cultural controversies, BVH students continue to turn to the popular pages of Twitter and Instagram, serving not only as public mediums but also as instruments of change, according to some students.

“Each individual voice has an impact no matter how small,” Martinez said. “And I won’t stop.”