Social media, some people love it and some people hate it. Personally I’m a big fan, most likely because I like expressing my opinion and I enjoy laughing at those Scottish tweets far too much. Another reason I like social media is because I feel like it has given people the opportunity to have their voices heard no matter who they are and where they are from. Recently social media has played a large part in promoting feminism and giving women in particular a voice. But is social media really empowering women, or is it causing as much damage as it is good?

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Twitter recently extended their number of characters to 280 meaning more interesting tweets to read generally, and longer ridiculous Donald Trump tweets. However one hashtag which captured the word’s attention was the #MeToo campaign, where people shared their experiences sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood including Harvey Weinstein victims Rose McGowan, Asia Argento and Cara Delevingne. This hashtag helped to unify both men and women who had experience sexual assault and/or harassment, essentially empowering them. Being able to share their experiences on social media and seeing the support others have received from the #MeToo campaign may have given these people more confidence.

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The #EverydaySexism project on Twitter which was started in 2012 on Twitter allowing women to share their experiences of sexism from the workplace to a nightclub. The project is an ongoing one with a hugely successful book sharing these women’s sexism experiences, helping to show others they are not alone and that they should not have to put up with this behaviour.

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As well as unifying women, social media is show us to how men are also promoting feminism and equality. Interviews with celebrities including John Legend, Prince Harry, Ryan Gosling and Will Smith have been shared thousands of times online expressing how they are supportive of the women using their voices via social media and how they believe in equality. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is also highly featured on social media promoting equality, recently stating in his speech in New York ““Being a feminist for me means recognising that men and women should be, can be, must be equal and secondly, that we still have an awful lot of work to do”.

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Although there are many upsides to social media, there are also a number of negative experiences as sometimes people use the power they are given on social media to criticise. In October Noble Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai faced criticism on social media for attending her university classes wearing western styled clothing and for not being accompanied by her father. Instead of simply letting the young woman be free to dress as she pleased, some users chose to focus on no male being present.

Dating Apps are becoming the norm, most single people use Tinder or Bumble which can quite easily affect a person’s self-esteem. A woman recently shared her Bumble experience where a man told her if she made some effort at the gym, he would consider dating her (his mum did an interview saying he’s only had 2 girlfriends before, no surprise why with charming texts like that). There is no doubt there are a number of men and women who have similarly had negative experiences with social media, showing it is not always used in a way which empowers.

Like most things in life, there are positives and negatives. The good of social media does not justify the bad, however I believe that social media is having a positive impact and allowing women to be heard.

Many people even now see feminism as a dirty word, a word that means women think they are better than men when in fact a feminist is simply a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes (shout out to Beyoncé for educating the world). Social media is one way in which people are able to learn more about feminism and giving women a voice.

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Kellina Loughran is a final year student studying Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be found on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kellina-loughran-a382a9123/  and Twitter: @kellina_x