By Haylea Coates

Scroll down the above slides for a full view of the app design

This is my design for a Canadian youth activism application, which I have named YouthMove. This application compiles resources for youth to learn about, discuss, and safely prepare to protest social injustice. YouthMove allows users to organize and join protests, find a protest buddy, read about a movement’s significance, share information relating to social justice causes, and connect with other youth activists who share the same interests and goals. I chose to design an app that facilitates social activism because, currently, there is no resource or media designed specifically for Canadian youth that compiles all information concerning ongoing social movements in the form of a social network. Generation Z are frustrated with the state of the world and want to make a difference, but activist efforts on existing social media applications do not meet the needs of young Canadians. Although my app is similar in function to other social media applications, YouthMove is committed to social justice. Using social elements like sharing and connecting will increase social justice engagement and avoid performative activism that only exists as a trend. This will help Generation Z inspire meaningful change around the issues they care about.

Social platforms provide an opportunity for youth to be actively involved with contemporary media environments, and to make use of resources to enact meaningful change in their lives and general society. Generation Z youth have repeatedly demonstrated through their activist efforts, especially online, that they are the most progressive generation. However, the accessibility of online activism has also led to a strong saviour complex among youth, who might think that they can conquer the world and act as vigilantes. While Generation Z prides itself on being socially progressive and justice-oriented, social media has turned activism into a display of superiority. This is not because of Gen Z’s assumed intrinsic nature or a generational division as some moral panic discourses suggest, but because of the design and functions of popular social media. The app I have designed would help refocus youth activism to make a tangible difference. Follmer attracts attention to how youth participate in performative activism for the sake of appearances and place this reputation above initiating real-life change. Thus, while Generation Z is genuinely concerned with the way the world works and how it could be improved, many individuals are using these networks to boost their self-esteem and simply appear as activists to enhance their social media persona.

Gen Z cannot save the world simply because they express a desire to save the world. Generation Z needs help; they need to connect with resources that help them create the lasting societal effects they fantasize about. Youth are more involved than ever with media technologies where the center of this engagement is a digital world in which information is readily available. An app that resembles popular forms of social media, with added characteristics that make change truly possible while removing superficial activism, is what this generation needs.

YouthMove would assist Canadian youth activists in learning about, organizing, joining, and staying safe for various social movements. It would make Canadian youth activism as straightforward, inspiring, long-lasting, and widespread as possible. There have been numerous times that I personally did not become aware of certain protests until it was too late to attend. Therefore, the design plan I created addresses these issues to provide information for youth to educate themselves on various social justice issues or find a buddy to protest to go with. Since Generation Z has tended to treat social justice activism as a merely aesthetic endeavour on mainstream social platforms, YouthMove would motivate a more driven demographic. As a dedicated activism platform, it would be downloaded by youth activists who need help getting connected, or who would be more likely to participate upon joining like-minded peers. This would allow for more meaningful connections, stories, and outcomes, rather than feeding into performative activism isolated to mainstream social media.

In designing YouthMove, I considered youths’ needs as well as their inclination toward social media. The application’s startup screen includes a guest option so users can quickly engage with the service without feeling pressure to join. Following this introductory exposure, users will be less overwhelmed and intimidated to participate, at which point they can create an account for long-term use. The application relatedly presents a fun and inviting design that is easy to follow. The Home tab shows the movements that the user follows. When a movement is selected, more in-depth information is presented such as significance, upcoming protests, supply lists, a buddy finding feature, and an option to connect with other supporters. Designed like infamous dating apps, the Swipe tab is an exciting and user-friendly way for members to discover and follow social causes. Users can also visit the Experiences tab, which features status updates from mutual followers and mutual movement followers. This tab compiles movement updates, research and links shared by members, issues relating to movements, as well as questions, comments, and advice. The Personal tab is where users can access important general resources, see suggested content based on their profile, and request help from the support team regarding the app or affiliated movements. There is also a Messages tab where interactions with other users occur. A dot below the navigation icons depicts which tab the user is currently viewing from the previously mentioned tabs.  Each design element is thoughtfully laid out to provide a seamless experience for youth while including all relevant information and maintaining the safety and security of youth looking to get involved in their community. I enjoyed designing this application and am enthusiastic because I know there is a genuine desire for something of this nature. The time and effort required to design this app would be reflected in the support generated from youth engagement.

Social media allows for availability and ease in collecting important information regarding social activism. However, a more focused and intentional platform is needed. Generation Z wants to change the world, but they cannot achieve this using mainstream social platforms. A platform designed specifically for youth and youth activism will increase user satisfaction and inspire youth to fight for the changes that impact their future. YouthMove allows for the accessibility, preparedness, and safety of youth activism. It gives youth the appropriate resources, connections and overall medium to meet their specific needs and generate change.

Haylea Coates graduates in February 2022, with an Honours Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies, and a Digital Humanities minor. Her passion is to engage with society’s mediascape to ultimately help others.