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Instagram Activism

Shivani Tripathi

Posted on January 11, 2020 16:16

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Effective social media activism comes from a place of sincerity.

“If you support Trump [and] the military efforts please get off my page & out of my life.”

Someone I follow posted this statement on their Instagram story following the death of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. The inflammatory nature of this message is just another example of how Instagram “activism” creates a culture of unhealthy discourse.

Be it the Amazon rainforest fires or pretty much anything concerning Donald Trump, it has become quite trendy for young people to opine current events on Instagram. To be clear, I respect everyone’s right to express their views. However, the haphazard delivery fuels tribalism and conveys a lack of genuity.  

1. Misinformation 

The most common form of Instagram activism entails users reposting images from other accounts. Regardless of the ideology, these pictures feature declarative and sensationalist statements. They go viral on the platform, racking millions of likes and thousands of shares. 

People usually don’t verify the content of posts before sharing, even if they originate from accounts with no credibility. This leads to the spread of misleading messages and outright falsehoods about pivotal issues.

 Even if a post contains factually correct information, one bold claim is not sufficient to adequately describe a situation. At best, such posts convey an oversimplified depiction of matters that are in reality multifaceted and complex. 

2. Toxicity

"Give the Amazon rainforest the same attention you gave an empty building." This post, which frequented my feed at the end of last summer, was in response to the Amazon rainforest fires. The empty building in question was the Notre Dame, which burned down in early 2019. 

It goes without saying that the only thing this post achieved was tribalism and division. Belittling a historical monument did not stop the fires. Nor did it highlight the actual cause of deforestation, which was beef consumption. Thus, this post was pointlessly inflammatory. It seemed designed to provoke, rather than to genuinely inform. Yet, thousands of users still shared it. 

3.Futility 

Who is Instagram “activism” actually helping? A slew of teenagers turning their profile pictures blue for a few days did not spur pro democracy talks in Sudan. Posting incendiary messages did not plant trees in the Amazon. Writing attacking statements did not absolve tensions between the USA and Iran, nor did it encourage civil dialogue. Spreading news from unreliable sources never properly educated anyone on current events. 

4. Sincerity

Therefore, much of Instagram “activism” indicates inauthenticity. It’s like each crisis becomes a new trend for people to join. After changing your profile picture for one tragedy, it’s time to repost what all your friends did for another. And then the cycle repeats. 

However, I mustn't generalize. Some people do use social media to constructively advocate for causes that impassion them. Maybe they’re spreading the word about a local protest. Maybe they’re posting a link to a comprehensive news article. Maybe they’re expressing their opinion in a respectful manner. What distinguishes them is their genuity. 

 

Shivani Tripathi

Posted on January 11, 2020 16:16

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Source: Vogue

From active to activist, this week's best beauty Instagrams were all about healthy self-expression.

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