How Social Media Allowed the World to See the Ukrainian-Russian War

By Rachel Mancuso

In the twenty-first century, we have information at our fingertips. We can get the news with the click of a button and instantly voice our opinions to thousands of people. One may speculate as to whether or not Putin wanted his invasion of Ukraine to be secret, but one thing is for certain: in this day and age, nothing goes unnoticed. The contemporary social media age ensures that injustices in the world do not remain hidden. This has created a greater benefit for all and has helped millions of people become more educated about world events.

In 2011, the Syrian conflict captured the world’s attention. It was the largest refugee crisis in modern history, yet I could not tell you a single thing about it at the time. My parents were still getting their news via a physical copy of a newspaper. At the time, Facebook was only seven years old and Twitter was only five years old. Tiktok did not even exist as an idea. Information was for the elite, that is, those who subscribed to newspapers that were flung onto their doorstep at five am. In school, we were taught about events of the past.

On February 24th, 2022, Putin’s armies attacked the Ukrainian capital. The war unleashed a massive refugee wave into the surrounding countries and the world. We knew instantly. Over the past six months as the conflict has gone on, over seven million people have been displaced within Russia and Ukraine. Over six million people have fled to neighboring countries. We watched this unfold live. Teenagers recorded the crowded train station as folks battled their way to a place on the refugee train. One girl described her experience on the actual train, detailing the cramped conditions and talking about how they only had a small bucket of water. She spoke about how they would each take a sip and would hold it in their mouths for as long as possible before swallowing because that was all they had. I watched this video mere hours after she posted it. Videos were posted online of the train stations in other countries where the refugees were received.

For so long, the world’s injustices have often gone unnoticed. The war on Ukraine has made information readily available. Instead of learning about the initial attack in class, I learned about this first hand. We were watching—and are still watching—a war unfolding in primetime. Everyone knows about the old woman handing out seeds to the Russian soldiers in Ukraine so that their bodies would sprout flowers when they died. Social media has allowed us to watch these simple acts of rebellion.

Public opinion matters greatly. It often changes the mind of those in charge and can influence policy changes. It has been six months since this war began. For six months we have seen civilians die, families be separated and soldiers fighting for their country. All because one man—Vladimir Putin—decided to launch a war. Social media will hold him accountable. The atrocities caused by his actions will not be forgotten because they have already been shown. They cannot be hidden because they have already been viewed by millions. Social media will help us remember. We cannot let Putin slip back into the shadows after this is over. We have evidence that has been presented to us through Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, and Tiktok videos. It has been shown to us from reports on the ground and from drones flying high above the fray.

Social media not only helps us see what’s happening and hold those in power accountable for their actions, but it helps us to remember those who have gone. The brave Ukrainian soldiers who were defending Snake Island from Russian forces, who ultimately gave their lives for their cause, will not be forgotten. The recording of their last moments—telling the Russian soldier who contacted them to “fuck off”—was heard by millions. Social media is a powerful weapon to wield in the modern-day landscape.

We cannot see the end of this war. Putin seems hellbent on making Ukraine bend to his will. Who knows what will happen in the future – but luckily, through social media, we’ll know instantly.

Rachel Mancuso is a senior majoring in History with a minor in Political Science

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