Global Women’s Studies Spring 2019 Study Abroad: Every Drop Counts

Study abroad group outside abolitionist William Wilberforce’s house in Hull, England

England, France, Switzerland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the Netherlands…sounds like the perfect European getaway, but Global Women’s Studies (GWS) students traveled to these countries for more than just sightseeing. They met with individuals and organizations who fight for human rights and women’s human rights. This past spring was the first ever BYU Human Rights/Women’s Rights study abroad, with 30 students, all GWS minors, participating in the program. 

Dr. Valerie Hegstrom, coordinator of the Global Women’s Studies program, and political science professor Dr. David Kirkham, who focuses on human rights, co-founded the study abroad. During the program, human rights classes were taught by Kirkham and women’s rights classes were taught by Hegstrom at Hyde Park Chapel in London. Hegstrom said that in addition to attending classes, students visited historical monuments involving human and women’s rights issues and met people who promote those rights. The main emphases of study were the two worst offenses of human rights: slavery and the Holocaust.  

Because of the intensity of the subjects they were studying, students shared that the program was both deeply meaningful and challenging. Emma Beaumont,  a student majoring in nursing, shared that the study abroad was “eye-opening, perspective-changing… [and] very humbling.” Joseph Fitzgerald, double majoring in psychology and German, explained that as a returned missionary from Germany, learning about the Holocaust was difficult. It was hard to learn about, because the Holocaust is “emotional” and “so many different perspectives” need to be considered when addressing it. Beaumont added that although the study abroad was “overwhelming at times, [it was] motivating to be the change and the difference you want to see from these problems.”  

Katherine Kramer, a political science major, shared that the study abroad excelled at “helping us connect with lots of different people in the sphere of human rights.” Fitzgerald said that meeting with these individuals was the “most impactful part of the study abroad,” because it was “cool to see so many organizations and people working towards progress, [since it is] easy to complain about injustices, [but] hard to make a change.” Hegstrom said that the group also visited several human and women’s rights sites, including:  

  • A concentration camp in France and the Holocaust Center in England 
  • Amar Foundation in London, where a Baroness spoke about refugees  
  • The International Criminal Court in Hague, Netherlands, where they witnessed a trial   
  • Bletchley Park, where codebreakers (many of which were women who were good at puzzles) worked to break the codes the Nazis used during World War II 
  • The European Court of Human Rights, where a human trafficking spokesperson met with them  

For GWS students, the human and women’s rights study abroad impacted them on a professional as well as on a personal level. Beaumont shared that the study abroad was “life-changing.” She used to “have the blinds on” about these issues, but now she “want[s] to be more proactive and open in talking about human rights.” Kramer said that she learned from the program that “not every person in vulnerable place/situation is going to have the same narrative/story.”  For Fitzgerald, one of the main takeaways of the program was that “we need to celebrate progress but not become complacent” with the progress made. Beaumont added that she had felt like her influence was a “drop in a bucket,” but then she learned that “every drop counts,” because these organizations have made an impact. GWS students learned that although there are many challenges still facing the world, every drop does make a difference.  

The WomanStats Project: Shedding Light on the Situation of Women Worldwide

Dr. Donna Lee Bowen
Copyright BYU Photo

Did you know that how a nation treats its women impacts its levels of peace, prosperity, and health? The WomanStats Project, which has the largest database of information on women, was created to better understand the relationship between the situation and the security of women. Dr. Donna Lee Bowen, professor emeritus of political science at BYU, is one of the principal investigators of the WomanStats Project, along with other BYU professors. Bowen has worked on the project for 10 years and shares that it is a global effort. There are principal investigators from the U.S. and from other countries including Turkey, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Colombia. Statistics about women’s lives in 174 countries have been gathered using over 310 variables.

Purpose and Meaning of the Project

Bowen explains that the WomanStats Project is meaningful to her in three main ways:

  1. It is an excellent research opportunity for students.
  • Graduate students from multiple universities work as coders for the project. BYU employs several undergraduate students as well as a few graduate students as coders.
  • These students receive heavy duty training and become skilled coders.

2. The WomanStats Project contributes to the academic work on women in a way that’s never been done before.

  • The project’s database is a unique research tool.
  • It is also “the world’s most comprehensive compilation of information on the status of women” as the project’s website explains.

3. The WomanStats Project contributes to understanding the situation of women.

  • “If you care about your country, you need to care about the welfare of women in your country,” says Bowen.

Impact of the Project

Bowen explains that the slogan of the WomanStats Project is: “The fate of nations is tied to the status of women.” Bowen and other principal investigators have found that when women are treated poorly, a country is less well-off in terms of its economy, education, environment, health, and government. Bowen explores these findings in greater detail in her book The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide with co-authors Valerie M. Hudson and Perpetua Lynne Nielsen.

Regarding the impact of the WomanStats Project on the situation of women, Bowen says, “We are hoping we are going to change the discussion of women and how [governments] make policy and laws.” Bowen hopes that countries will “take a serious look at the importance of women,” and not just in terms of raising children, although she acknowledges that what happens in the family determines all other aspects of women’s lives. With the largest database of information on women and researchers dedicated to analyzing these issues, the WomanStats Project is working to improve the status of women and nations by shedding a light on the issues women face worldwide.

How You Can Get Involved

The public can get involved with this research on women by exploring the WomanStats Project’s website. As Bowen explains, you can view maps that show how specific countries are affected by different variables. One multivariable map shows women’s physical security, revealing that in many countries, women have low levels of or completely lack physical security.

You can also visit the WomanStats Project’s blog, which includes articles on a wide range of issues related to the situation and status of women. You can also create a free WomanStats Project account and access the database. Visit the WomanStats Project’s website and become educated on the situation of women worldwide.

Office of Civic Engagement Announces New Leadership Minor Coordinator

Quin Monson

Professor Richard Davis will be stepping down as the Coordinator for the Civic Engagement Leadership Minor on May 1st. The College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences would like to thank Davis for his outstanding work. Davis became the founding coordinator as he headed up the Futures committee, which suggested the idea of greater involvement in civic engagement. Davis’s noteworthy accomplishments include:

  • Developing the Civic Engagement Minor
  • Creating annual opportunities for students to learn about civic engagement through workshops and speakers
  • Creating and hosting annual civic engagement research conferences on campus
  • Hosting a lecture series on various avenues of civic engagement
  • Promoting civic engagement through on campus advocacy

The college would also like to welcome political science professor Quin Monson as the new Coordinator for the Civic Engagement Leadership. Monson conducts research on public opinion, campaigns and elections, survey research methods, and religion and politics. His work has been published in many distinguished journals, including the American Journal of Political Science and Political Analysis. Monson also co-authored Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics. The college anticipates new steps in the civic engagement program based on Monson’s leadership and new perspective gained through extensive experience working with both political candidates and governmental and non-governmental agencies.

The Rollins Center: Building the Business of Social Science

Marriott School of Business Students in the Tanner Building. Jaren Wilkey © BYU PHOTO

Have you ever had a class where you were required to ask for a discount every time you bought something in person? Students in the Business Fundamentals and Advertising for Startups course are given this very assignment. This class is one section of Topics in Entrepreneurial Management (ENT 490R) offered by the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology, whose aim is to prepare students to begin and expand their own businesses.

Although ENT 490R is a business class, students from the College of Family, Home, and Social Sciences are branching out of their classes in the college to learn how to apply what they are learning to the business world. FHSS students share that their experience with business has enhanced their majors by providing them with new opportunities and social connections.

Referring to the assignments of ENT 490R, Taylor Hollingshaus, a junior majoring in economics, shares “all of the class assignments have been unique…you are not going to get an assignment you get in this class from other classes.” He reports that these assignments are teaching him that it is important to “be okay with being uncomfortable.” Juan Saaved, a junior majoring in sociology, says that the discount assignment in particular “taught me that you aren’t going to lose anything you don’t have.”

Harrison Riehle, a senior majoring in Geography, Urban & Regional Planning, says that the “most interesting and rewarding things I’ve done have come from the Rollins Center…I have met people I never could have met by just being in class.” Hollingshaus adds that it is “good to get outside of what we normally do” and that FHSS students also have the opportunity to bring a unique perspective to the ENT 490R class that can benefit their peers.

For Saaved, ENT 490R is enhancing his education by teaching him the business skills he needs in order to create his own start-up. His dream is to create a more affordable tourist package for students who want to travel to Machu Picchu, complete with housing, food, and guides. He wants to help students overcome language barriers and prevent common travel problems like avoiding pickpockets. Because Saaved hopes to create a business that will foster unique travel experiences for tourists, he sees ENT 490R as a course that “helps you make your idea a reality.”

The benefits of ENT 490R for FHSS students go beyond the business skills. For Riehle, taking a business class as an FHSS student is about becoming well-rounded. It is also about understanding more about how the world works, since he feels “business plays a part in any career.” For Saaved, participating in business is meaningful, because it brings people together. He shares that ENT 490R has individuals from a variety of backgrounds. “When it comes to the business world,” says Saaved, “we are all speaking the same language, [enabling] us to overcome social barriers.”

Due to all the valuable skills and connections students are making, it is no surprise that FHSS students are finding that the course is enhancing their college experience. For students interested in business but who are hesitant, Riehle says that “no one cares if you aren’t a business student or wearing a suit or something… when it comes to your educational goals, you can do anything you want to do.” For more information, visit the Rollins Center.

BYU Connect: A Helpful Tool for your COVID-19 Job Search

Graduating and ready to start your career, but unsure about how to find a job in the time of COVID-19? Check out BYU Connect, a career resource that includes:

  • Global mentoring
  • Advising
  • Job sharing
  • Networking
  • Discussion boards

BYU Connect allows both BYU students and alumni to make connections to support each other. To learn how using BYU Connect can enhance and inform your job search, check out the following features:

First, become a member.

Go to to join and select “Join Our Community.” Choose the option to create an account.

As a member of BYU Connect, you have a personal profile, where you can upload a photo, import your LinkedIn profile, and fill out background and career experience information. You can also upload your resume to help you in your job search.

Create Connections and Informational Interviewing

Did you know that you are 14 times more likely to be hired with a referral than without one? BYU Connect creates networking that is key to your job search. To connect with alumni, click on the “Explore the Community” tab. This feature allows you to:

  •  Search for connections using certain filters (see image below)
  • Use a card or map view when searching for alumni
  • Browse through recommended connections who automatically get sent to you based on your profile information

Once you find an alumnus or alumna you would like to reach out to, click on “Let’s Connect” below their name and information, and you will be able to send them a personalized message. This feature offers:

  • Message templates for networking advice, career exploration, or choosing a major
  • “Request a Meeting” option at the bottom of the message where you can schedule a time to meet with the alumnus/alumna

This makes informational interviewing easy! Informational interviewing will give you a chance to ask alumni about their career, helping you learn more about a particular field and available opportunities while expanding your network with BYU alumni.

Using Handshake

Handshake, another job resource connecting employers to BYU students, offers many useful tools for starting your career. Once on BYU Connect, click the “Handshake” tab, and you will be taken to their website. On this page, go to the “Jobs” tab, and you can conduct a job search tailored to your interest and needs. As the image below shows, you can select different filters as you search jobs, and you can determine which jobs appear first based on relevance and date. Handshake will also tell you if a job is an “Employer Match” based off of your profile.

Other useful resources on Handshake include:

  • You can star jobs you find interesting and save them on “My Favorite Jobs” beneath the search engine.
  • Track the status of your job applications using the “Applications” tab.
  • Search for and follow employers on the “Employers” tab.
  • Post your own and view others’ career-related questions using the Q&A tab.
  •  Message students from BYU and other universities career-related questions using the “Students” tab.
  • Check your “Messages” tab often, because recruiters can also contact you via Handshake!

Job Hunt Resources

Like Handshake, BYU Connect also has a jobs tab where you can search for job openings. Go to the “Experienced Jobs” tab and search for jobs based on location, industry, expertise, job type, and experience level. Click on the “Job Referrals tab” to see jobs that were posted by specific people you can add to your network to help you get hired. Another tool you can use during your job hunt is the “Resources” tab, which provides the following features:

  • Go to the “Career Resources” page. There you can find a link to the ZipRecruiter job search database.
  • Go to the “Student Resources” page. Then click on the “Find a Job or Internship” article, which will send you to a webpage with multiple resources:

This page includes several articles about how to find a job, including how to do a 2-hour job search and how to use your mission experience to get a job.

Use BYU Connect to build your network and find your next job! Click here to join today.

Dr. Bekker and Geography Team’s Findings Create Richer History of the Transcontinental Railroad

Photo by Paul Jarvis on Unsplash

Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the driving of the Golden Spike that linked the east and west branches of the Transcontinental Railroad together in Promontory, Utah. In honor of the event, the Utah State History and Antiquities Office (USHAO) asked Professor Matt Bekker of the BYU geography department to sample some of the railroad’s trestles and ties. By identifying the species of trees used to build the bridges and identify their cutting dates the USHAO hopes to bring to life a more detailed history of the Transcontinental Railroad.

In order to determine the species and dates of the trees, Bekker and his team took samples from six trestles and eight crossties along 87 miles of the railroad, located west of the Golden Spike. They also included samples of materials from former railroad towns that have transformed into ghost towns, including a remnant of an ornamental tree planted in Terrace, Utah, and three posts from a bunkhouse situated in Matlin, Utah. Taking these samples, Bekker and his team analyzed their wood and cell characteristics in order to identify the species of trees they each belong to.

So what is the historic significance of the tree species used in these settings? Bekker reported that “the most interesting finding so far was that some of the samples were from redwood trees,” and because these trees are only located in California in the U.S., it means that the workers must have been conveying the redwood “by rail and using it to extend the line as they went.”  All the trestles were made of either redwood or Douglas-fir, which Bekker notes, “[are] still used in construction today.” They also found that the decorative tree from Terrace was a popular tree, which was an “unusual choice for the west desert” because it requires a lot of water, but “water was known to have been piped in for miles.”

Another discovery that enhances the story of the Transcontinental Railroad is that ties and bunkhouses were made from a variety of species. This means that these materials were selected with less care and preference. Bekker explains that whatever material was readily available was most likely used. Ties did not last long anyway, but Bekker believes that “the hodgepodge of samples from the bunkhouse also suggests that the housing conditions for the laborers, many of them Chinese, were less than ideal.”

These findings create a richer history of the Transcontinental Railroad for generations to come. Bekker also notes that this study is preliminary, and that further work will be done to compare wood used in the east versus wood used in the west of the Golden Spike. To learn more, read the abstract.

Dr. Holt-Lunstad Discusses Combating Loneliness During COVID-19 on Facebook Live

Julianne Holt-Lunstad Photography by Nate Edwards/BYU © BYU PHOTO

Want to learn how to best handle social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic? BYU psychology professor Dr. Julianne Holt-Lunstad and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg held a Q&A on Facebook Live on April 9th. Holt-Lunstad is a world-renowned expert on social connection and isolation, and her work has been recognized in major media outlets, including The New Yorker and The Atlantic. Sandberg and Holt-Lunstad addressed critical issues pertaining to the pandemic and loneliness, including who is at risk for social isolation, how to stay socially connected while physically apart, and how to best reach out to others at this time.

Who’s at Risk? And the Effects of Social Isolation

Holt-Lunstad explained that while anyone in any demographic is at risk of being lonely, there are some risk factors that could increase one’s chances of experiencing social isolation, including if an individual has poor quality relationships, is a member of a stigmatized group, lives alone, or has other adverse physical or mental health conditions. Holt-Lunstad added that the effects of loneliness include a negative impact on one’s physical and cognitive health. In fact, Holt-Lunstad said that “loneliness is a biological drive like hunger or thirst,” so the distress that one feels one when is lonely is normal. “It’s your body saying that you need to re-connect,” explains Holt-Lunstad, “we are social beings and we need others for survival.” While the effects of social isolation are adverse, Holt-Lunstad says that social connection increases one’s odd for survival by 50%.

How to Stay Connected During COVID-19

If social connection is so critical for our health, what can we do to stay connected to each other during the COVID-19 pandemic? Holt-Lunstad stressed the importance of following the health mandate to social distance (if possible in one’s situation), while finding creative ways to stay connected:

  • Make sure that the time you do have together with your loved ones is quality time
  • When possible, have face to face conversations that are safe (for example, talking to your neighbor in the driveway when he is on his porch)
  • Text, call, and have video chats with family and friends
  • Be flexible when technology has its glitches

Sandberg offered additional ideas to stay socially connected and how to best reach out to others at this time:

  • When you are feeling lonely, reach out to someone else who is probably feeling lonelier
  • Let people know that you are here for them if they want to talk
  • Be honest about how you are feeling (recognize that you are glad to be safe but admit that social distancing is challenging)

Holt-Lunstad agreed that it is crucial to “reach out to others” and to recognize that feeling lonely is normal. For teens, being socially isolated can be especially challenging. Holt-Lunstad said “being open with your kids about how they are feeling can be really important” and “encourage[ing] ways where they can still connect to their friends and grandparents” can be helpful as well. Also, for those who are reluctant to admit they are lonely, Holt-Lunstad says that is it vital to recognize that social connection is a continuum and we are all somewhere on the spectrum, in need of social interaction.

Gratitude and Other Tips to Combat Loneliness  

In addition to staying socially connected to others, Holt-Lunstad and Sandberg shared how we can best deal with the situation of being isolated from one another. Holt-Lunstad suggested the following ideas:

  • How you focus your mindset matters. Instead of thinking, “I’m trapped at home,” say to yourself, “I’m doing this to protect the ones I love.”
  • Practice mindfulness-based meditation.
  • Participate in creative expression (engage in music, cooking, writing, etc).
  • Show gratitude- it increases social bonding and decreases feelings of loneliness.

Sandberg also emphasized the importance of gratitude, sharing that at their dinner table, her family now shares a “silver lining” moment along with their day’s highs and lows. Sandberg speculated that all of these challenges from COVID-19 may result in us being more grateful, saying, “maybe this is all giving us more appreciation for social connection. Think about the last time you went to a restaurant or hugged a friend, how grateful were you?” Holt-Lunstad agrees that the pandemic could cause us to be more grateful. She shared: “I’m an optimist. I nearly lost my husband to cancer…birthdays are a privilege. I hope what comes from this otherwise awful situation is a greater appreciation for our relationships and for the simple things in life and that we can learn and grow and become stronger from this.”   To watch the entire Q&A, click here.

Neylan McBaine Discusses the History of Women’s Suffrage in Utah at the Annual G. Homer Durham Lecture

Illustration by Brooke Smart

On February 13, co-founder and CEO of Better Days 2020 Neylan McBaine delivered the G. Homer Durham lecture. It was standing room only at the event! She discussed the history of women’s suffrage in Utah, highlighting how February 14, 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of Utah women being the first Americans to vote under an equal suffrage law. Better Days 2020 is an organization that seeks to spread the word about the heritage of these suffragists in order to encourage and support Utah women today in their corporate and political endeavors.

History of Women’s Suffrage in Utah:

McBaine summarized the history of women’s suffrage in Utah, starting off with the noteworthy anniversaries that the year 2020 marks: the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, and the 150th anniversary of Utah women’s first votes. McBaine then told the story of what happened 150 years ago: On February 12, 1870, the Utah territory gave women the right to vote. Two days later, Seraph Young cast the first ballot under equal suffrage law in a modern nation. McBaine explained that this law was passed for a specific reason: voting rights in Utah were linked to polygamy. In 1869, Utah territory was told to enfranchise their women, because people outside of Utah wanted Utah women to use the vote to free themselves from polygamy. However, Utah women did not cooperate, as McBaine shared, but instead, they formed large protest movements in defense of polygamy.

Yet the battle against polygamy continued, as McBaine explained: in 1887, Congress revoked Utah women’s suffrage rights under the Edward Tuckers Act that disenfranchised all polygamous men and women. However, that did not stop the Utah women from fighting for suffrage, as McBaine reported. They formed connections with key eastern leaders, including Susan B. Anthony, a national women’s suffrage leader. They even changed the names of their relief societies to “suffrage associations.” McBaine said that in 1896, Utah women regained the right to vote. Among the prominent suffragists in Utah who McBaine highlighted were Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female State Senator who ran against her husband and won, and Emmeline B. Wells, who edited one of the largest women’s suffrage papers, the Woman’s Exponent, and was one of the few early suffragists who was able to live to see the 19th Amendment passed in 1920.

However, the story did not end in 1920. McBaine shared that there is a broader narrative to this history as well: Native Americans could not vote in Utah state elections until 1957, Asian Americans until 1952, and African Americans until 1965. McBaine said that the voices of all of these women need to be recognized and remembered, including those of Zitkala-Sa, Alice Kasai, and Alberta Henry, civil rights activists and suffragists.

McBaine also presented three key takeaways from the history of women’s suffrage in Utah:

  1. The story of suffrage isn’t just about voting. The suffrage movement marked a transition for American women to move from the limited domestic sphere to the broader political sphere.
  2. Utah women worked with men to achieve their goals. It was not a power grab between the two sexes, but more of a church and federal government conflict.
  3. Utah women were neither pawns nor militants. Don’t depict women as all good or all bad, because often both women’s and men’s lives are contradictory. Working together for the betterment of humanity is messy but always worth it.

McBaine also left us with these parting questions: what does this legacy mean for us today? Are you living up to the legacy that these men and women left for us 150 years ago? McBaine encouraged both men and women to live up to this legacy. She said that sometimes we as women “let things limit what we are capable of,” for reasons including a lack of role models or a supportive community, but we can look to the suffragists of the 19th and 20th centuries as our exemplars. In fact, Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon, first female state senator, succeeded in earning four degrees because of support from her community. McBaine said that these women were “trailblazers” and that “you can claim this heritage!”

Take Away the Phone: Restrictive Monitoring of Social Media is Less Effective than Parents Think

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

Does restricting screen time help teenagers be wiser social media users? How can parents help promote positive social media use in their homes? BYU Students Ronde Walch and Alyssa Sabey provide answers to these questions in their article “Parental Monitoring of Adolescent Social Media Use and Emotional Regulation” in Family Perspectives, a journal published by BYU’s School of Family Life and written by students. Walch and Sabey conclude the following about teenagers and social media use:

First, it is helpful to know what social media use is considered “normal.” Walch and Sabey cite researchers who found that 30-60 minutes a day is a “moderate” amount of social media use for teenagers. Normal uses of social media for teenagers include socializing with friends, making relationships, creating their own identity, exerting their independence, and exploring their social world. Research also indicates that positive outcomes such as meaningful connections with friends and family and support from groups can be results of proper social media use. However, much research also focuses on the dangers associated with social media use as well, such as cyberbullying, verbal abuse from former partners, and the threat of online predators. Being aware of the positive and negative effects of social media, what can parents do to promote positive outcomes for their teenagers? Is restricting their social media use the answer?

Contrary to popular opinion, Walch and Sabey report that restricting teenagers’ social media use is not the best way to promote positive social media use. Research shows that restricting teenagers’ social media use causes teens to not feel trusted and can also limit their abilities to develop self-regulation skills, which can be related to the development of anxiety, depression, aggression, and internet addiction. So, if restricting teenagers’ social media use adds to these negative outcomes, what can parents do to promote positive social media use?

One of the most effective ways parents can help teenagers be wise social media users is to have conversations with their teenagers about what they encounter on social media so that teenagers themselves can learn to be “critical consumers of media.” Although not directly linked to it, emotional regulation skills can also be fostered in this environment of “active media monitoring” versus restrictive monitoring. Studies have found that when teenagers know how to work through their emotions in a healthy way, they are also better at monitoring their social media use and the amount of time they spend on it. This means that the best thing parents can do to promote positive social media use is to talk to their teens about social media content, which supports the development of self-regulation and enables teens to “navigate their social world, both online and off.”

To read the full article, go to “Parental Monitoring of Adolescent Social Media Use and Emotional Regulation.”

 To check out more articles on family issues, visit

To Troll or Not to Troll: Millennials and Politics Today

Photo by Yolanda Sun on Unsplash

What does trolling have to do with millennials’ political participation? Dr. Lynn Clark, communications professor at the University of Denver, kicked off the Fall 2019 Civic Engagement Research Conference with her lecture on “Growing up Tracked: How Millennials are Changing Politics by Harnessing Attention in a Society of Surveillance.” Dr. Clark discussed how young people today are combining digital media and civic literacy as they participate in the political process and advocate for change. This participation often takes the form of trolling and “soft trolling,” a term coined by Dr. Clark. Here are three things that you need to know about trolling and younger generations’ political participation:

Trolling is Not What You Think It Is

Dr. Clark defined trolling as “saying something online to upset as many people as possible using whatever linguistic or behavioral tools that are available.” However, when young people engage in trolling to participate in politics, they troll for a purpose, not just to be antagonistic. For example, they troll the trolls (call out people that slander them), troll the system by challenging its flaws, and engage in “soft trolling.”

“Soft Trolling”: A More Indirect Approach

“Soft trolling” refers to how youth are “calling attention to power dynamics” with their peers as the intended audience, not larger corporations or governments. Youth use this method to advocate for political change in a more indirect manner so that they will not be viewed as too antagonistic. An example Dr. Clark presented of soft trolling was a meme depicting a man playing tennis, swinging at tear gas instead of a ball. The creators of this meme were “making light of the situation” while also taking a certain political stance.

Sharing One’s Story

Young people are using social media to tell their stories and fight misrepresentation. Dr. Clark shared an example of a Senegalese Muslim high school student who created a TikTok video in response to the Netflix film “Tall Girl,” because she felt that her experience was ignored in the media’s narrative. This student and others are saying “my story is important and it’s not being validated here.” Dr. Clark further explains: “Rather than being framed in a way they don’t like, young people are utilizing media savvy to address their own concerns.”

Through trolling the trolls, trolling the system, and engaging in “soft trolling,” young people are combining their digital media and civic literacy to participate in politics. Because social media is emotionally charged in general, Dr. Clark ended her address with the following advice: “it is important for young people to figure out what they want to do and to see themselves as agentive [taking an active role] in some way” as they participate in politics through the use of social media.