What really is the meaning behind posting something solely for ‘bringing more awareness’? What is the true benefit of these posts and what about these posts is problematic?
The Black Square
Anyone who was on Instagram in June 2020 will definitely remember their whole timeline being flooded with black squares in what was supposed to signify an online protest. Although of course, it brought some type of awareness – Instagram users could not escape the endless black squares – what really is the point of such online protests? The black posts did not contain any information to further inform anyone about any REAL action that could and should be taken. This often is the problem with these infographic slides, as they do not offer choices for follow-up actions to make real-world change. As Qy’Darrius explains in his TedTalk, people who were posting the black square were problematic since they posted to “appease their conscious” rather than “creating justice or true change”.
Eventually, #BlackOutTuesday seems to maybe even have done more harm than good. The confusion of the hashtags posted underneath the posts and the overwhelming amount of blackouts posted may have been meant well, but has really backfired. The posts and hashtags ended up covering and censoring real black voices and information and posts of black voices. Brooke Marine explains: “Many of these posts feature the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in the caption. That hashtag is an identifying link that compiles information for activists looking to update one another on the protests and provide educational resources on the subject. People are trying to find information on #BlackLivesMatter and they either can’t, or it’s becoming more difficult to find because that hashtag is clogged up with plain black squares that don’t share resources associated with the movement in the caption.”
Choose Your Activism
The issue, in both the BlackOut as well as other infographics, is that (re)posting these slides tends to be more of a self-reassurance than that it really makes a change. It makes people feel like they are ‘woke’ and like they are contributing to the cause. But really, this passive type of activism may create some awareness, but it does not in itself create change. Infographics do not hurt to share, but make sure to actively pursue change in real-life, too. Read books, sign petitions, research topics (yourself!), go to real protests and have open and meaningful discussions.
It is all about putting in the work, and simply reposting Instagram activism is NOT enough.
Vox, How social justice slideshows took over Instagram
WMagazine, Why You Should Think Twice Before Sharing Your ‘Blackout Tuesday’ Post on Instagram
Great post! Like you said in social media the things you post quickly become a reflection of who you are, which is of course really superficial. So people tend to treat serious activism as more of a passing trend. Even with the infographics, I have seen cases where people don’t fact check them and just share misinformation. It seems that social media can cause quite some harm to the causes, instead of elevating them like it should.
I think you are absolutely right in that one should first and foremost seek out more active forms of support rather than leaving it at a black square and feeling good for having done minimum effort to contribute to a larger movement. As you mention with information getting lost in the overwhelming amount of hashtags, I also believe that the danger of misinformation is present as most people are not researching these topics themselves, and therefore they have no personal ideas or thoughts added to the cause and only forwarding information set up by others. I think it also on some level has to do with the fear of missing out on a mass movement, as if you were not on social media you would not feel the pressure to repost information, while if you are then you feel that is a necessary step. If people then feel “excused” from activism such as signing petitions and attending physical meetings then it minimizes the aspects that actually could make a big difference. I like that you are urging people to “choose their own activism” and take charge of what they can actually do to help, rather than focusing on what image they are portraying of themselves on social media. Thank you for bringing up this theme as I believe it is a necessary and very relevant one!