Ava Caudle ’25
In today’s digital climate, with a massive influx of information, Gen Z’s first instinct in the face of conflict is to take to the Internet. Whether it be making an Instagram story post that most people will flip through mindlessly or promoting a petition that won’t meet the eyes of lawmakers, we believe each furious click or pixelated name on a list makes us one step closer to sociopolitical change—whatever that might be. Our collective response to the recent crisis tormenting Ukraine has been no different. As soon as the news of Russia’s unjust invasion of the country broke, social media was flooded with comments condemning Vladimir Putin’s imperialism and photos of grief-stricken families. The rest of the world seems to deem Russia’s justifications for seizing Ukraine for what they are: deceit and corruption. Ukrainian flag profile pictures now fill our screens to display support and posts spreading awareness saturate our feeds. Herein lies a fundamental question: how far can awareness go in enacting the changes we hope to see?
No doubt, social media and petition websites can be a force of connection and unity but viewing them as the end-all-be-all of activism is a shortsighted misinterpretation. If the United Nations’ abundant negotiating assets could not deter Russia’s conquest, one would be mistaken in believing that President Putin will cease his destruction with a melting heart and glistening eyes after viewing our outraged hashtags. As a generation with access to more resources and knowledge than ever before, our shows of solidarity are no longer enough. Now is the time to set our sights beyond inaction and towards exercising more of our power.
This is not to say that our minds must constantly be preoccupied with the world’s geopolitical stressors, rather our minds should challenge what we view as sufficient work towards improving the world around us. Our generation has an abundance of passion for social justice; it’s time we put it towards more than just typing. There is nothing wrong with showing the people of Ukraine that we stand with them, but a population cannot live off support alone. No need to settle for retweeting a politician and calling it a valiant effort—email that politician’s office with your concerns or ideas. Instead of signing a fruitless petition intended to stop a war with one miraculous click, give tangible items (like canned food or sanitary products) to donation drives. If you have the means, contribute money to organizations fundraising towards humanitarian aid.
Young people possess the energy and ingenuity to make a positive impact. This impact will come not by staying in a performative bubble, but by taking comfort zone-breaking steps that acknowledge the real people affected by Russia’s treachery. Here are some sites to engage with: Association for Legal Intervention (human rights protection), World Central Kitchen (food relief), Doctors Without Borders (medical relief), Save the Children (children’s aid), The Kyiv Independent (uncensored, on-ground news coverage), and Ukrainian National Home (physical location- Hartford, CT).
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