“There is solidarity, even while scrolling through Tik Tok comments, between teenagers worldwide”: reflections about the war in Ukraine from Dutch youth
On this year’s International Youth Day, we would like to share the thoughts and experience of Maryse, a Dutch high-school student and former volunteer at the NHC, about the events happening in Ukraine and how seeing war unfold live through social media has impacted the perception of Dutch young people while also sparking unprecedented solidarity. Please note this reflection was written in May of 2022.
While scrolling on Tik Tok, it has become clear that the war in Ukraine is being publicised on a never-before-seen scale. Whether through videos of Russian tanks rolling down the streets of a village or of explosions in cities. Not only can you see images, but you can also hear stories from refugees or young people who have suffered under heinous crimes. The world has a close up view of this war. This means that many younger people have become invested in following what is happening, live.
This is a positive aspect of social media, people can follow world news without having to open a newspaper or read an article. News has become far more accessible due to the growth of news sites on social media. Nearly every big newspaper or news site has a Tik Tok or Instagram account, with which they inform the public. This means that when the war in Ukraine started, many teenagers were aware of the threat the world faced. In class, my peers were worried about the war and the possible implications for them while also having sympathy for the Ukrainian people.
Since the start of the war, my history teacher has started every lesson by explaining the current situation and I have never seen my (usually quite distracted) peers listen so intensely. Talking to my friends, they were very worried about their safety and the possible escalation the war could have. There were many conversations about which position you would want to have if you had to join the army. These were discussions that I have never had before with people of my age.
I also spoke to a girl who is Russian but condemns the war. She was ashamed that her family in Russia supports Putin but was also extremely concerned about the possible consequences friends or family could face if they spoke against him. The images of people getting arrested for holding a blank piece of paper kept worrying her.
She is one of many young people in the Netherlands who are worried about their own or Europe’s security. 62% of the younger generation are worried for their own safety, and 91% are worried for the security of Europe. 65% fears the use of nuclear weapons by Putin. This is all from research done by a Dutch radio. This fear was shown in context when, during a test, two fighter jets flew over our school. This is usually a normal procedure in the Netherlands, it was something that we had seen every once in a while. The deafening sound startled everyone but there was an immediate stress that crossed everyone’s face. The fear of an escalation is a realistic one and one that many are worried about.
While Dutch teenagers are worried about the war, they also are willing to help Ukrainians, 75% of young people in the Netherlands want to help. People have taken in refugees for a short or long term. Many of my friends have been the ones to approach their parents with the suggestion to take in refugees. This is practice in the whole of the Netherlands. People have been helping by donating clothes or money. The GIRO 555 action has already made over 100 million euro. This shows the immense support that the Dutch people have for Ukraine.
Many teenagers feel the strain of worry about their safety, however after the COVID-19 pandemic there is also a sense of unity again between countries and people. While the stress about the war is nothing compared to living it directly, many young people are suffering worrying about it. But this worry has also had some positive effects. There is solidarity, even while scrolling through Tik Tok comments, between teenagers worldwide. Under posts about teenagers who have lost their homes, there is a stream of love and support from other teenagers. This fear has also led to appreciation from Dutch teenagers, that they are living in peace. This concern has amounted to love, support and gratefulness. Hopefully this awakening will not limit itself to the war in Ukraine but other issues worldwide where there is little media attention for.
For more on the situation in Ukraine, check out a series of interviews we conducted with members of Ukrainian civil society.