The thing about public safety is that companies don’t willingly increase the costs of their products, or reengineer them. Products remain “dangerous” until companies are forced to take action against the danger. That’s why Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s report on social media caught my eye. It’s not the last word in this emerging danger. It’s the first.
A long time ago, cars were very, very dangerous. Many people died. The auto industry knew it, but making cars safe was expensive
Along came a young, brash advocate for automotive safety: Ralph Nader You may not remember the name and his book, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” first published in 1965.
But the issues the book raised resonated with car owners, and perhaps most painfully with families who lost their loved ones in dangerous and deadly car accidents.
Nader’s work had real impact, with accomplishments that included:
Today, you won’t find the next generation of change agents with offices on K Street in Washington. You’ll most likely find them on TikTok.
In 2020, at the age of 17, Aiden Kohn-Murphy founded a Gen Z-led group of media activists called Gen-Z for Change. He explained it this way: “There is this huge desire among young influencers to use their platforms for good." Today the organization uses social media to fight for the issues his generation cares about, among them climate change and the environment, systemic inequity, foreign policy, voting rights, and LGBTQIA+ issues. The group works with a coalition of hundreds of social media creators, to build a community of advocates and activists, most of whom have online presences that span a wide range of subjects relating to social change.
“The issues that I care about are shaped by my experiences, therefore everyone is going to care about different things,” Kohn-Murphy told The Thred back in 2020. ‘What drives me is the principle of making sure young people are uplifted and included in the conversation because I know that Gen Z is not a monolith.”
Kohn-Murphy sees social media, properly harnessed, as political power. “What you can do on social media that the traditional media doesn’t do is provide the perspective of those whose lives are most affected by these issues. When you show these realities, you’re able to place a unique focus on the issues themselves,” he explains.
“Teens are realizing that our rights come from politics, for better or for worse,” Kohn-Murphy told NBC back in 2020, when he was just 16. “I think people who are younger than 18 are realizing how they can be politically and civically engaged even though they can’t vote.”
As of August 2022, Gen-Z For Change had 500 content creators and activists, with 540 million followers and 1.5 billion monthly views on social media. Today, Kohn-Murphy is a sophomore at Harvard and the senior advisor at Gen-Z For Change, handing over day-to-day operations to focus on schoolwork.
But his activism includes a deep understanding of what Gen Z wants from the organization. They’re all about collaborating and sharing the spotlight and the work -- because the challenges ahead are so big, you can’t solve them alone.