PhD Student Jillian Sunderland interviewed by 'The Medium' on Social Media Activism

December 16, 2021 by Emma Robins

Sociology PhD Student Jillian Sunderland and an SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier scholar at the University of Toronto was recently interviewed by Dalainey Gervais from ‘The Medium’. Sunderland was interviewed on her both her research and personal experience regarding social media, platform use, activism, and the separation of activism and corporate capitalism. The full article is available on ‘The Medium’ website here.

This article focuses on the newfound importance of social media activism in today’s political and social climate and assesses both its strength and weakness for implementing change. Following the wake of BLM protests and the recent discovery of mass grave sites of residential schools, social media presence and activist conversation is stronger than before. This article addresses both the positives and negatives of this sudden increase in informative posts, hashtags, and online protesting. Gervais seeks Sunderland’s opinion and stance on using her own platform as one of activism and access to information.

An excerpt of the article is below:

Social media platforms help raise awareness on important issues worldwide.

By: Dalainey Gervais, September 13th, 2021

“Social media activism has really given us unprecedented access to democratize information because the majority of young people get their news from social media,” says Jillian Sunderland, a sociology PhD student in the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Studies Program at the University of Toronto. Reflecting on her use of social media, Sunderland confirms that she also utilizes her platform to share important information with her followers. Access to the internet allows an opportunity for everyone to become allies in important causes and movements.

Social media activism helps communities understand their own histories and brings attention to important conversations around the world. Following the murder of George Floyd and the intense social media coverage of the Black Lives Matters (BLM) movement during the summer of 2020, Americans used their social media platforms to expose the deep-rooted racism of the country that is not an issue of the past. The movement also allowed Canadians to reflect on histories of slavery and racism.

“I realized that Canadians didn’t know the extent of anti-black racism and our history of prejudicial treatment in Canada,” adds Sunderland. “When I asked my friends why they weren’t sharing resources on their platforms, they told me that it was just an American problem.”