Aggies share their experiences as activists on Instagram

Aggies share their experiences as activists on Instagram

Photo Credits: Mario Rodriguez / Aggie

Students explain their inspirations and goals with social activism

In a world full of instant posts and strong opinions, many have explored social activism on a variety of platforms in order to fight for change and share their beliefs with others. Some UC Davis students are among the social activists of the world who use Instagram to create accounts through which they share their activism with the public. 

Mariah Padilla, a second-year community and regional development major, first created her activist account @colorsofclimate on Instagram as a final project for a seminar class she took last year. Called “Climate Change in the Small,” the class ultimately led Padilla to continue using the account even after the quarter concluded.

“We discussed climate change in the context of race, gender, inequity, art and so much more,” Padilla said via email. “This class inspired me to explore the intersectionality of environmentalism and propelled me to share this newfound knowledge with others.”

Padilla’s account covers a wide range of social justice issues but mainly focuses on environmental issues.

“I am an intersectional environmentalist, meaning that my environmentalism focuses on centering the experiences of the Earth’s most marginalized communities and is rooted in the belief that climate justice is social justice,” Padilla said via email. “These core values of mine are the driving force behind the content that I create.”

Going forward, Padilla hopes to create a free newsletter that would inform her readers about environmental topics and shed light on those issues to make a broader impact. 

“I have a strong belief in the power of social media, I think that social media platforms are a powerful and effective way to share information with a large array of people,” Padilla said via email. “Social media also is not limited by geography, allowing me to reach people from all over the world.”

Camille Ty, a second-year psychology major, participates in social activism through her personal Instagram account. She began to use her account as a form of social activism in high school but increased her activity due to the political climate this year. 

“I definitely posted a lot about social activism before, but it’s definitely heightened over the last year,” Ty said. “I think that it’s just really important for me to show where I stand and to help inform people because not a lot of people have access to resources. Sometimes a simple graphic or another Instagram post might let someone learn something that they didn’t know before.”

Ty’s posts cover a number of social justice topics, such as Black Lives Matter, mental health, COVID protocols and the presidential election. In addition, on her Instagram account and story, she shares her opinions through her posts and reposts. 

To interact with her followers, Ty incorporates polls to gauge opinions on certain issues and occasionally reposts information her followers share as well. For Ty, it’s important to keep her account active and continue speaking about topics that are meaningful to her. 

“I make sure my account continually posts about these movements and doesn’t stop after the trend starts to go down, and after my [feed] is ‘back to normal,’” Ty said. “I wanted to keep people informed because these issues are still happening, and ignoring the problem isn’t going to solve anything. Pointing out the flaws in systems and in the country is what’s going to […] promote change and make people want to fix things.” 

Sofia Saraj, a first-year linguistics major, co-founded a social activism Instagram account, @degreeintea, with her two friends from high school last May. The account was first created as an extension of a podcast, called Degree in Tea, which speaks on academic advice and social activism.

With this account, Saraj hopes to spread awareness about ideas and issues inside and outside her community. She shared the importance of staying educated during this time and the platform’s ability to keep her accountable.

“With the political environment that we’re in, and everything that our generation has lived through, it’s either you choose to be educated, or you choose to be ignorant,” Saraj said. “I didn’t really want to be on the wrong side of history, and doing this is just my way of educating myself.”

The account was first run by three people—Saraj and two other co-founders—but quickly expanded to a 15-person team. These volunteer-based positions involve researchers and graphic designers who help create posts for the account. The account posts information about a number of social justice issues such as racism and homophobia, while also incorporating different series of posts; for example, sharing the anonymous stories of students from local high schools who have faced injustices.

While the team is working on creating a website, Saraj’s biggest goal for Degree in Tea is to inspire others to educate themselves and gain a greater understanding of the world around them.

“If we can help people have those uncomfortable conversations about activism and help to change some people’s opinions and help them understand the world in a broader sense […] I think that’s our biggest goal,” Saraj said.
Written by: Nora Farahdel — features@theaggie.org