Social media has become an essential tool for not only updating your followers on the chic new outfit you're wearing, or what you're eating at your local trendy cafe, but it has become a digital space where users can talk about political and societal issues. @Instagram's popular content series #Advocates, highlights "people around the world who are sparking positive change."
Libyan American journalist and activist Noor Tagouri, 26, has made it her mission to raise awareness for underrepresented communities in the media. Distractify spoke exclusively with Noor to discuss the impact social media has made on her career, how younger generations are using these platforms to enact change, and her goals in 2020.
Check out our Q&A below. (Editor's note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Distractify: In your Instagram #Advocates video, you touch on what society has deemed your “weakness” and amplifying that to use to your advantage. Can you give an example of how you used your personal insecurities or vulnerabilities to your advantage?
Noor Tagouri: I went into the field of journalism because I knew it is what I wanted to do since I was a child. I always wanted to tell stories, but when I made the choice to put on the hijab, I knew that it would be really difficult for more to get a job in television because it had never happened before in America. ... They'd say things like, ‘Can you take that off while you’re on TV and then put it back on afterwards?’
And you never wavered.
NT: I would always just tell myself, that isn’t the place for me to be. I realized in one of the stories that I was reporting that I was able to have a level of empathy and understanding when interviewing people because I knew how to approach stories differently because of who I was and because of my identity. I knew how to utilize the thing that people kept telling me would be my weakness in my career, as my strength.
How have you used social media to amplify your platform and speak out and talk about societal issues?
NT: I’ve been using social media to essentially broadcast my dream since I was in college. ...I was able to use it as a way to prove that there was a demand for these stories and to see more representation on television, but also the community became my source of strength and then my sources for my stories.
How do you think social media provides a platform for the younger generation to speak out on issues and voice their opinions?
NT: If you’re privileged to have access to the internet, you have a platform. ... Last week I was speaking at an event and someone in the audience was like, ‘I only have 800 followers…' If you put 800 people in a room, that’s a lot of people. We’re so desensitized to what a number looks like that we forget that our voice can still reach and impact people directly.
I agree. Young people are so focused on the number.
NT: The facade of just being able to tweet something or retweet something or yell about something or cancel someone on the internet is not real activism. It’s not how you get work done. It’s connecting with actual human beings and that’s where it’s at. You can use social media for that good, but remember that there is an individual behind every single number and those individuals exist around you, too.
You’ve talked about how there is such a lack of diversity in media. Do you think the space (including fashion, entertainment, etc.) is becoming more inclusive?
NT: I think there’s a lot of diversity on the surface. I try to talk more about inclusion. If you look at the decision making tables, do they reflect what you’re seeing in their campaigns? Is the newsroom reflecting the stories that they’re telling? I think there is still a lot of work to be done because that’s just not the reality.
If you have a smartphone today, the world is at your hands. You can create and do anything that you want. ... We’re finally able to create things for ourselves without having to get permission or approval from a society that’s standards have never included us to begin with. The more that we do that, the companies and the media outlets and the brands who are trying to sell to us are going to have to pay attention and sit down and really listen intentionally.
You’ve posted on Instagram about setting goals for yourself every day. What is a goal of yours or something you hope to accomplish in 2020?
NT: Right now I’m working on two very important and precious projects. I think my immediate goals rely around those projects. I think my overall goal for my work is, I really want to create meaningful work that changes the way people see others.