Posts and Picket Signs

Statesman encourages students to shift their activism from the Internet to the real world for bigger strides in progress


Designed by: Sophie Ismail

Since the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has been at the forefront of activist agendas. In addition to the upsurge of protests worldwide against police brutality and racism, BLM has been generating attention on various social media platforms. Numerous users have reposted infographics on their stories that spread information about BLM and shared videos of police brutality to raise awareness.

While that leads to a rise of easily accessible information, and has been the catalyst for public outcry across the country, it’s also meant that for some, activism has started to become more a trend than a meaningful movement. For example, there were 2.2 million more #blackouttuesday Instagram posts than signatures on the Justice for George Floyd petition.

Clearly, more people worry about their social media feeds than creating change. It can be easy to conform to “slacktivist” methods such as reposting social media trends, but Statesman believes the public needs to redirect their focus onto action in real life instead of “clicktivism.”

Social media is often a platform for the public to share their lives and connect with others for personal enjoyment. The vast majority of social media users, such as Stevenson students, don’t have the responsibility to be social activists online since the internet is for entertainment. If the intentions were to influence others and make an impact on the community, then users should be held accountable to take action.

On the other hand, influencers have a wide audience and they take on the responsibility of acting as an inspiration to some upon taking on this role. When they make the decision to ignore current events, especially those that pose a threat to human rights, influencers are neglecting the responsibility they accepted. Furthermore, by choosing to continue to promote their own posts, influencers do the public a disservice to an even greater extent. 

For all who want to involve politics and activism into their social medias, it’s important to consider their online audience. Although informational posts reshared on numerous social media accounts may seem like an effective form of social action at first, when people aren’t willing to be open minded and see different viewpoints, they aren’t being reached by this “clicktivism.” Without the content on the internet reaching a receptive audience, no change can occur. 

Some content may reach the right audience, but then the issue turns to misinformation. Blindly reposting information from Instagram activism accounts can open the door to “fake news.” Users can repost false information without knowing it, or even consciously. 

Several activism accounts that spread information to the public are guilty of inaccurately conveying situations at hand. Infographics and other such posts often only share one side of the story, when there’s another perspective to be shown.

Pew Research Center found 10 percent of adults in the U.S. shared fake news that they knew was made up, and 49 percent later found out it was unreliable. Although it may require more effort, the better option is to read or watch news from reliable sources that report unbiased information rather than believing random sources on the internet. 

The act of blindly following certain opinions on social issues without doing the research spreads falsities that some may adopt as their own version of the truth, ultimately hurting the cause.

Researchers at Stanford University found, “The more times a person is exposed to a piece of fake news, especially if it comes from an influential source, the more likely they are to become persuaded or infected.” 

This repetition of false news can create an echochamber, magnifying the misinformation available online and making it easy to tune out anything being posted, especially for those who aren’t familiar with certain social issues. Informational posts constantly flooding social media feeds drowns out substantial news. The intentions with reposting or retweeting can be good, but it is crucial to recognize and understand the underlying impact of digital actions. 

Social media is often not the best way to get involved, but Statesman recognizes that it has had its own benefits. Through a study, Pew Research Center found that 59 percent of social media users from ages 18-29 have used social media sites to find information about protests or rallies near them and 42 percent posted a picture to demonstrate their support for a cause.

We’ve seen social media become a very useful tool for movements like BLM and climate change when the right things, such as information that people can use to act in the real world or educate themselves, are available. Specifically relating to the BLM movement, consuming media from Black creators ensures that allies who want to support the movement are amplifying the voices of Black people, rather than speaking over them.

Keeping this in mind, using these protests and other forms of reform to further a personal agenda is highly unethical and arguably worse than not attending any events at all. There have been instances of influencers treating BLM protests as their personal photoshoots and taking advantage of the situation to generate more likes or shares under the guise of being a socially aware role model.

Treating advocacy like a trend only feeds into the trend of inauthenticity online. Social media has fixated on Black Lives Matter, to the Ugyhur Muslims in concentration camps, to the Yemen crisis, seemingly just hopping from one movement to another without any special attention. With no long-lasting light being brought upon these movements, there isn’t concrete change occuring. 

After Floyd’s tragic death, there was a moment of silence on social media where many users refrained from posting about their own lives and instead posted about Floyd and information about BLM. Those who posted personal, unrelated content were often berated by the public. 

Statesman admires the respect and acknowledgement that arise in the immediate aftermath of tragic events, but urges everyone to take a step back and reevaluate their true intentions. It is encouraged to deeply care and advocate for various causes, but not everything has to be public. Online activism shouldn’t be motivated by self-satisfaction and the worry of being negatively perceived by peers.

Despite the popularity online, not many people can say they’ve taken action to support these causes, such as having tough conversations with family or writing to their representatives about these issues to create real change. Action on social media, but inaction when it matters is the hallmark scenario of performative activism. Social media can get the ball rolling, but without any steps toward change in the real world pushing the movement forward, the momentum will inevitably come to a stop.