From women’s rights to ecology, from anti-racism to the fight against police violence, in the street or on social networks, the Young Generation – a mix between Generations Y and X – is fighting all the battles. Engaged and concerned, this generation is committed to social and political change, taking everyone along with them.
In 2019, they took the floor to warn previous generations about the ecological disaster. They have raised their voices, as it is their future that we are talking about. Young and committed figures such as Greta Thunberg have emerged on the regional and international scenes. In the face of political inaction and citizen indifference, they have organized world marches to protest against climate change and call for global action. Feeling fully legitimate, they address political leaders on an equal footing and act to prevent the ecological crisis from becoming inevitable.
In 2020, they took to the streets to denounce racism and police violence. The death of George Floyd in the United States, filmed by a 17-year-old woman on her mobile phone, was massively broadcasted on social networks. It is also on these media, in particular on Instagram, that calls for demonstrations by the families of victims and civil society organizations were launched. And the most active age group on social networks is none other than the 15-25 year olds: in 2020, they represent 81% of Instagram users. While the Arab Spring of 2010 had already highlighted their organizational capacity, social networks have now become essential tools for rallying and raising awareness.
Social networks: THE tools for sharing and raising awareness
Like any social group, “young people” are a very diverse group with varied socio-cultural profiles. Yet they share a number of common points: born between 1995 and 2010, they grew up with social networks and smartphones. This has influenced their relationship to information and culture, exchange and communication. No need to be involved in a struggle to be aware of it anymore: information comes directly to you. If the trend was already towards society issues being discussed on social networks, in particular with pop-feminism and the appearance of Instagram accounts that criticize the norms imposed on women’s bodies, recent demonstrations have hijacked the use of these applications to turn them into real political tools. This is also the case of TikTok, which saw the hashtag #blacklivesmatter explode in June 2020 and allowed the organization of the boycott of Donald Trump’s first re-election meeting in the United States. At the same time, on Twitter, groups of teenage girls created support funds for American anti-racist movements and launched the French hashtag #balancetontiktokeur to denounce sexual blackmail on minors as well as the racist, sexist, homophobic and grossophobic comments present on the application.
“Minorities are the majority”
For Clémence, 23 years old, the strength of social networks lies precisely in the very foundations of these tools: communicating, disseminating, sharing. “Social networks have made it easier for groups of friends to share articles and videos. We all have a particular interest: in my group, there’s the eco-friendly, the lesbian… everyone has an issue that is close to their heart and we’re trying to spread these ideas in our circles”. In her opinion, the need to demonstrate is also linked to this massive use of social media: “[…] We spend our lives exchanging in restricted virtual spaces… at some point, we need to spread out and claim the public space to speak out”. For her, collective mobilization requires a facility of dialogue and exchange and a diversity of content, but also a logic of convergence of struggles between different discriminated groups: “Today, minorities are the majority. There is a real awareness of and commitment to individual identity and values. We talk about it among friends and we support each other. As a result, we feel valued in our identities and are “decentralizing” to rally together. We commit ourselves to subjects that are our own, but on the other hand, when there is a need for solidarity, we really become part of a dynamic of convergence of struggles and collective mobilization, all the more so because if we are not concerned, friends of ours will be. We are going to mobilize with others and for others“.
Compared to the generation of May 68 who wanted to change the world, Clémence thinks that her generation wants to undo it, starting with imposed norms such as patriarchy, hetero-normativity, Westernization, state racism and white privilege. To tear everything down, in order to better rebuild.
“Today, it’s up to us to do our part.”
Nineteen-year-old Luisa disagrees with this statement. She analyzes youth mobilization as a logical evolution. For her, it is an extension of previous generations and is largely based on family ties: “I don’t think that everything should be transformed and destroyed. If today I can assert my identity and express myself, it’s because my parents’ generation is capable of listening and discussing. They are more open-minded than their own parents. Today, it’s one more evolution, mentalities are progressing, and generational differences are deepening, just as our grandchildren will have things to say and to improve. We are not more or less committed than others. My generation benefited from the struggles of previous generations. It is up to us to do our part now.”
In its perspective, social mobilization is a form of extension of identities and an opening to others. An openness that involves the recognition of all social inequalities and discrimination. Clemence and Luisa are not directly concerned by racism. However, they position themselves as allies and supporters of the people concerned. For Luisa, the whole challenge of these protests and movements is to react to the unacceptable and to raise awareness among people who do not feel involved: “This time is a learning phase for everyone: learning to listen to the people affected, learning to create solutions, learning to strive for social progress”.
An example to follow
Learning. This is also the conclusion of the generational portrait drawn by French journalist Nicolas Charbonneau. He sees in the younger generation an open-mindedness, a social conscience and a sense of values to draw on: “All the subjects that have agitated our generations, such as gender identity and sexual orientation, are no longer relevant to them”. We should then learn from younger generations who are a source of positive change: they are the ones who sensitize previous generations to the preservation of the environment, vegetarianism, racism, gender, and the use of digital tools. All of this based on a logic of links between generations and not a generational confrontation as in May 1968.
The 15-25 year old generation has already experienced security, ecological and health crises. And the post-pandemic era promises a new large-scale economic crisis. In the face of the challenges, they define themselves as actors of change and are pushing society as a whole to react. Whether it be racist, sexist, sexual, homophobic or transphobic violence, this generation, our generation, is no longer willing to remain silent and is fighting against the invisibility of those who are discriminated against. This generation is not afraid of questions of identity or privilege. On the contrary, it takes advantage of them to take a critical look at the society in which we live in, to build the foundations of our empowerment or our power to act. In this way, they are trying to create new ways of organizing, to bring about social and political change and build a society that is committed to ecological and societal issues, respectful of identities, and aware of different social realities. In other words, a society in their image.
Through these Stories, Azickia aims to highlight social impact initiatives, in France and around the world, while not necessarily adhering to all the opinions and actions implemented by them. It is and will remain in Azickia’s DNA to fight against all forms of discrimination and to promote equality for all.This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 France License.