PRSSA Kent and BUS discuss Social Movements on Social Media

Latisha Ellison

Kent State’s Black United Students (BUS) and Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA Kent) collaborated on Wednesday night to hold the Social Movements on Social Media (SMOSM) discussion panel in Franklin Hall, to a crowd of about 35 students and faculty.

“For so long we have been screaming, but no one has been listening until they could see it (on social media),” said Kent State sociology major and co-chair of the Ohio Student Association, Nyaruach Chuol.

Chuol was speaking in reference to the hashtag #ICan’tBreathe and Eric Garner, saying that people didn’t understand the gravity of the situation until they saw the video.

She was on the discussion panel alongside associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) Stefanie Moore, assistant professor in JMC Stephanie Smith and community organizer, Matt Vinzant.

The collaboration between PRSSA Kent and BUS focused on social media being a tool for social movements, while recognizing it’s not the only tool for a successful movement.

“We definitely use social media, but we use it as more of a peripheral tool,” Vinzant said. “The number one resource we have is each other, so we try to get out into the community and talk to people first.”

The panelists agreed with Vinzant, adding that social media can be used to expand the network and reach, but also keep those relationships.

“We have to know the difference between what a movement is and what mobilizing is,” Vinzant said. “We can mobilize by getting a lot of people to come to an event, but a movement is more about the retention of power—retaining those people you got to come to your event, keeping those people.”

The panelists concurred that a strong movement retains people and doesn’t fade away. While social media is a good tool, they agreed with Smith who said, “Change happens through people taking action.”

Throughout the event, students were allowed to ask questions and follow along on twitter using the hashtag #SMOSM. SMOSM was also livestreamed on PRSSA Kent’s Periscope account, where 33 people tuned in.

“It was fantastic to speak with people who have such high intelligence of organizational community activism and still be so down to Earth and be willing to explain or elaborate their type of tactics with us,” said junior public communications major, Devin Bates.

The topic of Black Lives Matter came up and was used as an example of a hashtag that has become bigger than the movement. While legitimate, the panelists said that people don’t understand what the movement means and why it originated.

“Black Lives Matter, I believe, has gotten lost in the sauce,” Vinzant said. “I don’t think anybody truly knows what Black Lives Matter is right now. I think a lot of people know what it is supposed to represent, but this an instant where the hashtag or phrase has grown bigger than the reasons for the phrase.”

There was agreement amongst the panelists that social change happens through action and social media can help to aid in that change, but much more needs to be done than just social media.

“Putting a filter on your profile pic doesn’t solve anything,” Moore said.

Smith then added that social media should be used to kickstart action.

“Every social media action must be a call to action,” Smith said. “Social media is no substitute for strategy in organization.”

Latisha Ellison is the CCI reporter for The Kent Stater, contact her at [email protected]