It was this exact image that led to social media’s role during this war, it was no longer just funny memes, it was a cry for help. This was what caused an entire generation to stand up for a country they had never even been to.
We read about them in our history classes, some involve weaponry and some involve silent rivalry. Either way, it is the commoners who have to suffer the consequences. Wars have been present and ongoing since the beginning of time, so what made the Russian occupation of Ukraine stand out? It was awareness.
We are the first generation to witness a whole war brewing right in front of our eyes through a glass screen and it is gruesome. Watching countries opening borders for civilians who had to suffer the consequences of wars in which they played no part.
In 1939, when World War II had just started, there wasn’t a soul you met who knew what was actually going on. Yes, a whisper here and there, but it wasn’t until people were being shoved into trains, taken somewhere safe when they had to bid their men farewell when they had to duck as millions of bombs fell, that they realized it was an all-out war.
This was an occupation of one country, and we had millions of online pages dedicated to showcasing exactly what was going on. Ukrainians updated the world through their social media accounts over what was going on. The first week of the war, there was a Ukrainian man on Reddit, his username very standard of sorts, he talked about hiding out in an old busted down building and drinking till he was blackout drunk to drown out the noise of death due to the Russian attack. He described those attacks in such great detail, he talked about people fleeing homes, and children being subjected to such a fate. He had to join the army to fight for his country and we have not heard a peep from his account since then. It raised a lot of concern on Reddit, it was after that specific event that there were large funds, programs, and rallies to defend Ukraine. None of which we would’ve had if social media did not exist.
When Putin cut off all access for Russians to view any news about what was happening in Ukraine, it was social media that swooped in and kept them informed of these heinous crimes. The voices grew louder in aid for millions of Ukrainians, for each and every one of them.
This photograph was taken in Lviv, Ukraine, with empty strollers to represent the children who had died. This caught the attention of thousands of news outlets, our hearts truly lurched for such an atrocity that was taking place right in front of us. Many photographs resurfaced on plenty of apps such as Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, and TikTok. People started changing their profile pictures to the Ukraine flag to stand in support of Ukraine. Many claimed the changing of profile pictures did nothing, but during times when it is not possible to go out and join the war against a communist country, standing in support was an option and it was done beautifully across all social media.
Wars were never played fair; it was never known to us until we saw how Ukraine barely had comparable forces to the opposing Russian army. Against barely 120 fighter jets of Ukraine, there were over thousands sent by Russia, and that was just the starting number. If social media had not existed right now, Russia was powerful enough to start propaganda and make Ukraine ought to be the bad guy here.
The economy in Russia tanked, and many went bankrupt, yet most of them believed the war was not real, there were no changing minds of people who were stone-cold to the reality of the world. They were slowly becoming part of the problem.
The Ukrainian army has its own Twitter account and provides hourly updates on the ongoing war.
Just as easily as the entire internet came to stand in solidarity with Ukraine, it started showing the long-term effects of social media as well, the bane of all evil being, rumors. Edited photographs, edited speeches, and plenty of false narratives against Ukraine, people started questioning if we should really be getting information through our screens, many Ukrainians tried defending themselves but by this time, most of the place was bombed and there were only a number of cellphone towers standing. This is where social media stepped up and became a hero again, the pictures of Zelensky not stepping down, it was remarkable seeing a leader up there on the battlefield refusing to move from his position, refusing to give up on his people. It was a breath of fresh air and it was at this moment, that Russia knew, that no amount of propaganda from their side was going to turn the world against Ukraine.
This type of transparency had never been shown before in any kind of war or conflict, the reaction of a lot of people supported, funds for refugees and arranged huge protests to resist a Russian occupation. So for the most part the impact of social media was positive.
Along with awareness campaigns, there came a new form of coping mechanism, through humor and memes (as long as they were respectful). A lot of Ukrainian citizens who were in bomb shelters started recording tiktoks, sending out hilarious tweets against the Russian army, and making tiktoks about their new shelter. This caught the attention of news channels who did not really understand why humor was necessary for the situation and most headlines stated it was propaganda on their part to get the attention of a “younger audience”. Either way it got us hooked!
Social media definitely played a huge role in support for Ukraine, many people did claim that making jokes like this was never done before on the brink of any war but before this, we only ever saw the after-effects of wars and just take a look at this WW2 soldier mocking Hitler and tell me they didn’t use humor as a coping mechanism. (it’s healthy).
We love to mock a dictator and we hope to see it done again!
Another personal favorite:
No platform used any weapons but I think it’s safe to say all pro-war privileged jerks were slapped!
Facebook is the highest used platform in Ukraine by up to 60%. After this was found out, a lot of people took it to join groups and made pages that posted war updates, reasons for war, and why it should never have to happen again on there. Even though Facebook has certain violations against posting content related to wars, it started allowing its users and urged them to post more about it.
There was an immediate increase in Instagram accounts in support of Ukraine but they were quickly taken down due to Instagram policies. Many users have complained but the pages still continue to surge.
The differences noted between the wars back then and now other than awareness is we know what goes on during the war, it’s not the same as being on the battlefield, but the dead bodies, bloodshed, and sacrifice of a million soldiers are clearly seen through the cell phones glued to our hands. It should be an awakening call for many leaders who kick off wars for their own petty reasons and cut off access to all communication so the voices of a thousand victims are silenced.
The war backfired on Russia due to its lack of decency, their economy collapsed, none of their credit cards word, their treasury dried up, and brands such as, Mcdonald’s, Apple, Spotify, Warner Bros, Disney and so many more have pulled out of Russia. But this was straight-up petty and nothing compared to the loss suffered by Ukraine. Against a huge country with all the firepower in the world, this was definitely the highest extent one could’ve gotten without suiting up and showing up to the battlefield.
Even though right this moment, the Ukraine war continues, Russia refuses to back down and Ukraine remains on its ground. The one positive outcome definitely was that any leader would think twice before waging war, the effects are clear, bombs don’t drop on the country to get it out of the map, they drop on innocent children playing in the park. And other than that on a lighter note, no country wants to get Twitter canceled, the internet doesn’t forget!
A lot of opinions conclude wars are inevitable, but seeing the aftermath of this one, I hope those opinions can change. Wars have been going on for centuries, this was the first one that was witnessed to this extent. There is not a child with a phone who does not know about the Russian occupation of Ukraine, and these children are the future. They know it isn’t pretty and this extent is not needed to be reached to conclude a solution. Social media for sure did inspire this and it is a lesson for all leaders responsible worldwide.
Wars are wars, they literally mean people will suffer even after leaders shake hands. Our hearts go out to everyone who lost their country and their home, to those who are stuck there or have taken refuge. To support Ukraine, take an active part in your local protests and donate to local funding for refugees, visit countries to come to their aid. If the possibility is low for any of that, work on social media, join groups and educate yourself on the ongoing war and its effects.
Not lastly, we really hope it was like this: