School survey: 47% of students follow Russia’s invasion on Ukraine through social media
Lacking the context of the invasion, many younger individuals may be at risk of being influenced into holding certain opinions.
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has caused a cyclone of news and media – utilizing one of the most rapid tools for communication on Earth: the Internet.
In the past week, adults and teenagers of the United States have demonstrated solidarity with Ukraine, despite residing across an ocean from Europe: altering their profile pictures and banners on social media to include a blue-on-yellow flag, and sending relief funds online through Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). With this in mind, we set out to discover what high school students in the United States knew about the invasion, and their thoughts pertaining to it.
The study we conducted is not intended to reflect the overall American population, but rather a group of high school students we interviewed locally. On Friday, March 4th, during our lunch break, we conducted a survey at our school.
As a reward for completing our online survey, we gave each respondent a dum-dum lollipop. In total, we received 79 responses from students ranging from 14-18 years of age.
Additionally, we organized a couple interviews with high-school students whom we selected in order to elaborate more on the subject matter.
"We don’t want this war". The invasion of Ukraine is Putin’s, not Russians’ doing
One of the first questions we sought to ask was whether students had any personal connection to Ukraine or knew someone who did.
Only 7.4% expressed they have a personal connection, while another 19% expressed that they knew someone with a personal connection. As we moved forward with the survey, we acknowledged these percentages might be much lower than in Europe, especially Eastern Europe.
Curious about the influence the Internet had in the rapid growth of support and solidarity for Ukraine, we asked our peers if their primary source of information about the invasion came from social media such as TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, etc.
Meeting our expectations, 50.6% of students said they first heard of the invasion through social media, and 46.8% of those following the invasion responded that they were primarily following it through social media. One student summarized that “[they] have only been hearing bits and pieces of the crisis from social media.”
The majority of students who participated in the survey indicated they knew little or nothing about Russia and Ukraine's history before the invasion, with only 25.4% stating they knew a lot.
Without a strong foundation on the historical context of the invasion, many younger individuals may be at a higher risk of being influenced into holding certain opinions.
This is further exacerbated by acquiring the majority of their information through social media, which is littered with difficult to avoid misinformation.
When asked if they have seen social media posts detailing the present situation in Ukraine, an astounding 93.7% of young people responded affirmatively: From missile shells hurtling into residential houses to a livestream camera setup that enables people all over the world to watch as a nuclear power station come under fire, the Internet has made conflict observable from virtually anywhere.
Arguably, if the Vietnam War was dubbed the “first television war,” and the Arab Spring was labelled the “first social media revolution,” Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is soon gaining its own epithet: the “first social media war”.
With the younger generation consuming social media on a daily basis, Ukraine’s conflict will continue to be extensively documented, filmed, reported and chronicled on mobile phones, allowing for an uncensored view of the invasion.
Through these pieces of media, many have formed their own opinions towards the invasion. “I have seen a few videos of what’s going on in Ukraine…what’s happening is just heartbreaking…that these innocent people are being attacked,” a student stated during one of our conversations.
“It’s sad to see what’s going on over there,” observed another.