When news of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade was announced, a friend of mine commended a guy we knew for reposting an article about it on his Instagram story. Because the decision didn’t directly affect him and his rights, he now appeared “woke” to my friend for acknowledging the issue. But to me, this type of social media “activism” isn’t exactly worthy of praise.
Right after significant events happen in the social justice world, every Instagram story I see is an aesthetically pleasing infographic. But after the initial wave, it doesn’t take long for those posts to disappear completely. This cycle makes me wonder if people are participating in activism for social capital. And it’s happening again right now.
While scrolling on TikTok a couple weeks ago, I saw dozens of people posting videos of themselves cutting their hair in solidarity for the women protesting for their rights in Iran. These were people living in the U.S. And I couldn’t help but wonder if these people were taking any action beyond raising awareness, or just participating in the trend for social capital? Is it really about supporting the cause or trying to appear “woke” to followers?
Personally, I usually choose not to participate in social media activism, especially because my platform is small and basically an echo chamber. A post on my Instagram story wouldn’t create meaningful change and would only benefit myself. However, those with broader social media influence actually do have the ability to create meaningful change.
By design, social media is performative. But I also think that for many causes, the more people talking about them, the better. I try to remember that at the end of the day, the actions taken outside of social media matter the most. Showing up to protests, organizing, donating and educating yourself and others will always create more change than an infographic on your Instagram story.