A woman holding a smartphone and touching the screen.

What does my morning scroll have to do with social justice?

Social media platforms such as TikTok, X (formerly called Twitter), Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp can be used to enable us to keep in contact with one another or to create and share entertaining, funny content. 
When I think of Instagram, I think of pouting selfies and when I think of Facebook, I think of memes with funny text edited on top of seemingly unrelated images of minions. 
However, social media can also be used to share information and promote education about important social causes, as activist content is produced, hashtagged, liked, shared, ReTweeted (RT’ed), reposted, commented on and directly messaged between users. 
How can social media be used as a tool to promote social justice? Is TikTok really for more than cute dog videos? But before I get ahead of myself, what is social justice anyway?
A screenshot from TikTok for 'social justice' searches.
People with placards and amplifier on global strike for climate change.

What is social justice?

Like with most words and phrases, definitions of social justice vary. However, it can refer to:
  • promoting a just society by challenging injustice and valuing diversity1
  • the responsibility to care for others1.
When we fight for social justice, we may try to reduce or remove injustices people face because of ‘factors such as race, gender, ethnicity, class, religion, age, sexual orientation, and where they live’.1

Put simply, social justice is about trying to make society fairer. Some groups of people are currently treated unfairly but social media can be used to amplify their voices and encourage greater global equality.

How social media can be used to raise awareness

An article titled, Media, Movements, and the Quest for Social Justice covers the idea that 

‘meaningful political change and the expansion of social justice depend upon collective action’.2

Basically, this means that creating a fairer society may require people to work together to improve their situation.
The leading social networks are usually available in multiple languages and enable users to connect with others across geographical, political, or economic borders3.
Using social media to raise awareness about social issues and how they impact people can encourage users to make changes in their own lives, from buying more sustainable clothing after watching content on the climate crisis to donating to charity or attending marches.
A screenshot of social media apps on a smart phone.
A young woman getting interviewed by a man on a podcast.

How can TikTok be used to promote social justice?

TikTok, a social media platform largely home to short video content, can be used to promote social justice in a variety of ways. 
One article focuses on experiences of using TikTok to teach students in social work programmes and to engage digital audiences around topics related to social justice.4

TikTok has made me engage more critically with the content I create, to really boil down complex topics to snapshots and figure out how to make things as approachable as possible.

Shanna Kattari – Social work professor and TikTok creator4
Unfiltered – Tiktok and the Emerging Face of Culture is an immersive installation showcasing the influence of digital accessibility and questioning its impact on public consciousness, visual aesthetics, and identity structures. For each exhibition location, new posts, hashtags and user profiles form local TikToker are researched. And new questions are formulated which appear in large letters in front of the videos.
At the time of writing, #socialjustice has been used in 58.5k posts on TikTok. Here are some examples of hashtags related to specific areas of social justice and how many TikTok posts have used each one:
  • #neurodiversity = 64.9k5
  • #racism = 731.2k6
  • #equality = 473.3k7
  • #homophobia = 66.8k8
  • #transphobia = 51.1k9
  • #ableism = 58.2k10
  • #sexism = 71.5k11
These figures show that TikTok can be used to create and/or engage with content which covers issues related to social justice.
The more we replace ignorance with tolerance, unity and inclusion, the greater chance we have at improving social justice.
While it can be used to spread misinformation, trolling and hate, I know I am not the only one to have learnt a lot about a variety of social causes from this app.
A group of young people creating protest signs.
Teenage female friends taking selfies during a women's rights march.

Teaching and learning about digital activism

I have worked on the University of Plymouth’s Globalisation and Social Justice module for three years, giving a guest seminar in 2021 and being the Seminar Leader for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 academic years. 
One lecture given by Dr Deidre Patterson, module leader for this academic year was titled, Social Media and Digital Activism and in my seminar about this topic, my class and I discussed how social media can be used in social justice movements. 
Social media has been (and continues to be) used to raise awareness about campaigns such as the following: #MeToo, #BLM (Black Lives Matter), Extinction Rebellion and Pride.

A question I posed to my students is: if you were to set up a social movement for an important cause tomorrow, what would you do to get attention, maintain it and ultimately, to make a difference?

Get involved with local, national and global social justice causes today, whether these be online or offline!


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If you want to learn from leading sociologists about how inequality, gender, and ethnicity shapes our identities, or how the media impacts our culture and politics, or how health is socially determined, or how people are affected by prison – and much, much more – then this is the sociology programme is for you.

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Image of demonstrators outside a public building.
Module spotlight

Globalisation and Social Justice module

A core module in Year 2, the Globalisation and Social Justice module investigates the key debates of globalisation and critically evaluates, in terms of its economic, political, socio-cultural and legal dimensions, the causes and consequences of a globalising world. 
It furthermore explores a range of international social justice issues to examine the relationships (causative and ameliorative) between policies and (in)justice.
Brussels, Belgium. 21st February 2019. High school and university students stage a protest against the climate policies of the Belgian government.


1. Taylor and Francis - Insights. (n.d.) What is social justice? [online] Taylor and Francis. Available at: https://insights.taylorandfrancis.com/social-justice/what-is-social-justice/#
2. Ryan, C., Carragee, KM and Schwerner, C. (1998). Media, movements, and the quest for social justice [online] Journal of Applied Communication Research, 26(2): 165-181. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/epdf/10.1080/00909889809365500?needAccess=true
4. Kattari, SK and hess, eli. (2023). Harnessing the power of new media for good: Using TikTok as a tool for social justice and social work education [online] Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 28(3): 81-95. Available at: https://reflectionsnarrativesofprofessionalhelping.org/index.php/Reflections/article/view/1932

The 'Are all subcultures now global?' image is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Unfiltered_%E2%80%93_Tiktok_and_the_Emerging_Face_of_Culture.jpg