Josh Jury

Israel Must Utilize Social Media to Gain Gen Z Solidarity in Times of War

Jerusalem, Israel photographed by author (Josh Jury) on August 31, 2023

In 2024 wars are being fought on battlefields, but they’re also being fought through a different medium – social media. In this age of technology, one doesn’t need to be physically on the ground in places of combat or conflict to have an impact. We can voice our stances on world issues from our fingertips. In just a few clicks we can use our online platforms to share personal views and create thoughtful posts to communicate the causes important to us. This is what social media could be used for.

Instead, digital spaces are too often utilized in a harmful way. Rather than using social media to express personal views on important causes, many young Americans post what’s popular or trending without a second look. According to a survey done by Deloitte, 51% of Gen Z teens get their daily news through social media, and this number is only growing. This means that apps like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are heavily influencing the younger generations’ comprehension of reports on world issues. Amidst the Israel-Hamas war when misinformation is soaring, sometimes what’s trending or popular on social media is lacking the truth, misinforming, or even containing antisemitic messages. All it takes is a few minutes to fact-check or review more reliable first-hand sources. Even so, with the frontlines of a battlefield aired on our screens, seeking out authentic communiqué is becoming a real challenge.   

Many Gen Z Americans hope to voice their opinions and advocate for social change by posting content they wholeheartedly believe makes a difference. Often these young, digitally-engaged Americans have good intentions, but are seeing popular social issues in black and white. Comparable to many world issues, the Israel-Hamas war is complex. The war and the history of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians are not explainable in 10 Instagram slides, let alone in most lengthy discussions. Geopolitics are complicated and require an educational, unbiased perspective on international relations. Simply put, social media was not created for that purpose. 

Despite social media being an ineffective platform for news, our reality is that millions of teens are using these apps to stay cognizant of current world affairs. While social media is being weaponized to create misinformation and disinformation for the masses, world leaders and governments must learn to utilize the powers of an interconnected online society for good. Social media may not be effective for truthful content, but in times of war, the one thing the online platform excels in is visibility. 

The Israel-Hamas war is not the first war to be fought on both the battlefield and on social media. Just over two years ago when Russia began its vicious attacks on Ukraine, we saw a very similar form of online fighting. Social media captured the atrocities of the war being committed across the world and that visibility caught the eyes of Gen Z. Suddenly, these distant issues thousands of miles away were in our hands and on our screens. Ukraine was quick to adapt, seeing the power of social media and its large sway in world influence. President Zelenskyy of Ukraine became an influencer overnight. He adapted to online diplomacy where social media was a tool for spreading awareness and connecting to Gen Z.

The plight of safety for the Ukrainian people living in a war zone became a notable issue. Within a few days, many Americans were adding the Ukraine flag to their profile photo. How does adding a country’s flag to an online profile make a difference in a war? It doesn’t on the battlefield, but the social activism and show of solidarity create a growing interest in the cause. Supporting Ukraine became a popular stance for posting, the Ukrainian government knew this, and rightfully so, they took advantage of it. United States public opinion, especially in Gen Z, was shaped by Ukraine fighting its war against Russia through social media.

Now, as the war in Ukraine and the war in Israel rage on, both countries are using social media to their advantage. Both countries are heavily reliant on having a strong online platform to create a respectable worldview. During these times of war, both Israel and Ukraine are also relying on the States for their own security and defense needs. A bill valued at over $95 billion to support Ukraine and Israel’s security recently passed the Senate. The politicians supporting the aid bill know that the voting Americans whom they represent are also advocates for safety and security abroad. And of course, if millions of voting Americans are getting their information from social media, there’s no better platform for gaining political support.

An abundance of Gen Z teens are using social media as a way to express their concerns over worldwide issues and social justice. This form of online activism is quite admirable, and frankly, our future. Using social media to express opinions and stay involved in world issues is important and can create real influence. We live in a society where millions can stay civilly engaged from their phones and this in itself could be a tool if social media weren’t so often weaponized. With that said, Israel, like Ukraine, must use social media for good. We can recognize the faults of these platforms, but ultimately, they offer an outlet to Gen Z that no news channel can provide. If Israel can utilize the strengths of visibility and truth against the abundance of false information, there may be hope for winning on the battlefield, and online. 

About the Author
Josh Jury expedited his high school graduation in the U.S. following a semester at Heller High School in Israel that was cut short by war. He is a voice for education on combating Antisemitism and anti-Zionism, and a Gen Z voice for Israel. Josh recently took part in the URJ Teen Israel Organizing Fellowship, and was honored as one of JUF’s 18 Under 18 for his work representing Israel.
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