Activism is defined as the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change. However, when you put “social media” in front of the word activism, it brings about a whole new meaning.
As social media has grown rapidly over the last few years, so has social media activism. According to a study done by Pew Research Center in 2018, roughly half of Americans had engaged in some form of political or social-minded activity on social media in the past year. Some of the more popular online “protests” included #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, movements designed to address racially-motivated police brutality and support survivors of sexual assault, respectively.
In that same study, it was stated that #BlackLivesMatter would spike periodically on social media in response to major news events pertaining to the movement’s cause. This is where the issue with social media activism lies.
People get angry when they see injustice displayed on their smartphones and will post about it; however, then they go back to their own lives and forget about the situation entirely. Showing your support/disapproval of something online can make you feel like you are making a change, but just posting a picture on Instagram doesn’t really do anything.
This issue is especially apparent with teens, who perhaps feel they are too young to make a real change and that social media is the only way to get involved in what they believe in.
That is completely understandable, as long as you are educated on the activism you take part in. Additionally, it might be a good idea to make sure that viral post you’re about to put on your Instagram story isn’t a complete scam. To avoid embarrassment, do your research. One way to do this is to check the Instagram account @exposinginstascams. This account investigates the legitimacy of various Instagram accounts claiming to, for example, plant a tree for every like/repost of their picture.
Even if what you are reposting is completely accurate, what is an Instagram post really doing to benefit this cause? It is a much better idea to try to actually be involved in the bettering of our world in whatever way you can; whether that be through donating money, volunteering locally, or changing your own lifestyle.
The best part about real-life activism is that you don’t have to worry about being tricked by some online scammer. So, next time you’re about to repost a viral picture, think about what you are actually contributing to that cause.