Is the act of posting Black Lives Matter content on social media just a lazy form of activism? During the 1960s, in the heat of the Civil Rights Movement, activism was defined as “the policy or practice of doing things with decision and energy.” Does it really take decision and energy to post something and then carry on with the rest of your day? I don’t know.
My experience with online activism has been fairly turbulent. During the Australian bush fires in February, countless people were posting links to fundraisers on their Instagram stories that were later found to be just a hoax. I’ve seen so many instances on social media where people don’t fact-check a charity or newsfeed and they end up spreading misinformation. This ultimately clogs the overall force of the movement, and instead of focusing on what needs to change, we get distracted by the fact that we were lied to by a fake account.
Social media has greatly changed how we view activism. Putting something on your Instagram story is nice. It informs people and is a step in the right direction. However, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t believe it’s capable of reversing years of systemic oppression on its own.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many activists on social media who have used their platform to genuinely do good. The #MeToo movement made great strides because of its ability to connect with victims’ stories all over the world. Greta Thunberg will soon become a household name for the younger generations after she used social media to generate the Fridays for Future movement. Now we are faced with the Black Lives Matter movement which is finally gaining the traction it rightfully deserves. However, half the time it feels like people aren’t posting to be helpful but are coming from a place of self-righteousness.
So a girl posts a bikini pic at her lake house on Instagram. Is it insensitive to the movement? Yes. But how do we know that she isn’t donating, signing petitions, or reading articles just because she isn’t necessarily posting about it? I think it’s important to understand that when you put others down for not posting anything BLM-related, it really just pressures them into posting out of a place of performativity, a need to defend oneself, without the intention of actually doing good.
Side note: Why aren’t men being held to the same standard as women right now? My female peers have been called out for not posting about BLM, yet I can’t count the amount of pictures that my male peers have posted over the past three weeks alone of themselves fishing or drinking with their friends. And yet, I’ve observed little to no criticism directed toward them. Not only are fishing pictures super-unflattering, but I also think it’s interesting how (based on what I’ve seen) men aren’t being held to the same level of accountability as women.
I know so many white people who have turned this movement into an opportunity to stand on a soap box to preach to the rest of us about what we should/shouldn’t post on social media, even though we have no idea whether or not they themselves are fulfilling their activist duties. While posting a smoothie bowl on Instagram might be a micro-aggression, I doubt the person who posted it actually had racist intentions. This is where education is necessary.
However, there is a difference between educating someone and putting them down.
We need to work together to make social media a positive place again. We are holding people accountable for the wrong reasons. White people need to learn how to be better allies to the movement by putting their soapbox aside and using social media to amplify black voices.
It’s time that African Americans have the spotlight for once.