Emma Lembke

Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Emma Lembke grew up in an environment with two older siblings, where she was taught that her voice should be heard in times of distress. With a natural inclination to explore and listen to stories, Emma early on recognized the power of online platforms’ navigation in connecting people from all walks of life. However, she knew that these connections had its limitations and it’s in this realization that she found herself leading the charge to provide young people with the tools to reduce the harms of social media.

Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Young Defender Emma Lembke began her journey in activism with her own experiences and observations of the negative impacts of social media. At age 12, she was the last of her friends to get a social media account. Emma had witnessed how her friends’ attention was consumed by the online world. However, she did not feel the same animation. Instead, she noticed the drastic effects of spending hours a day online, including a distorted self-image and difficulties in forming meaningful relationships face to face. This unhealthy frame of mind led her to research the mental health crisis caused by social media among young people, but she found a lack of voices representing those who had experienced such harm.

In response to this gap, Emma launched Logoff in 2020, a platform aimed at helping teenagers navigate social media usage. What started as a local initiative in Alabama quickly gained global attention, resonating with young people worldwide. Emma’s work with logoff has continued for three years into her time at Washington University in St. Louis, driven by her concern for future generations who are increasingly exposed to digital distractions at an early age.

Through research and storytelling, she has shed light on the risks social media poses to democratic functioning and individual expression. Emma has explored how filter bubbles are created, pushing users into one-sided narratives and promoting extremist content while profiting from their data and content. She recognizes the contradiction between these platform metrics and the values of democracy.

Emma acknowledges the challenges that arise when governments restrict access to social media, limiting people’s freedom of expression. She is working diligently to bridge the gap between our hyperlinked yet disengaged communities, aiming to protect democracy and promote equality.

When it comes to her philosophy on activism, Emma believes in addressing issues at their root cause and safeguarding future generations from harm. She emphasizes the power of activating people and working together with those around her to effect change. One individual who inspires Emma is Tristan Harris, a dedicated advocate driven by intelligence and passion to address issues. Additionally, her father, who has his own activist spirit, has instilled in her the importance of standing up for what she believes is right.

Literature has influenced Emma’s activism journey, with works such as “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman and “iGen” Jean Twenge have propelled her into understanding the impact of technology on society. She also finds inspiration in the book “Voices from Chernobyl” by Svetlana Alexievich, recognizing the journalist’s ability to raise awareness and provide space for activism.

Looking ahead, Emma plans to continue her work with Logoff, aiming to lower the pressures of engagement and ensure the protection of rights. She seeks to form partnerships and make conversations on these issues more accessible to all. Furthermore, Emma aspires to delve deeper into the field of human rights, considering pursuing a law degree or a graduate degree in policy. Her vision is to promote and safeguard human rights across various geographic regions, remaining engaged in the policy and political spheres.

Emma serves as a powerful voice for change in the digital era, inspiring others with her commitment to human rights, her understanding of the challenges that lie ahead, and her unwavering dedication to creating a better world for further generations. RFKHR is thrilled to have her as a Young Defender.

Profile written by India Norris.