Is Instagram the future of activism?
According to a survey by Statista, “With roughly one billion monthly active users, Instagram belongs to the most popular social networks worldwide.”
Due to recent attention surrounding movements such as Black Lives Matter and Autism Awareness, social justice advocates have shared their opinions via the photo sharing platform.
“I will often post about current events that I find shocking on my Instagram story,” said sophomore Sarah Carr. “When I see something that is so horrible, I think, ‘Does anyone else know this happened?’ and I want to share it with my friends.”
Like Carr, freshman Kelly Irwin says she has reposted content to spread awareness about pressing matters.
“Posting about these major issues is the least I can do to try to help these people,” said Irwin. “Being white myself, I haven’t had any personal experiences of racism or discrimination, so I feel an obligation to amplify these voices. If I can spark a conversation or even a thought about these problems, that’s all I want.”
With over one million followers, the Instagram account @impact is just one of the activist-led profiles that seeks to spread awareness about current events. Their most recent posts titled “Anti-Asian Policies You May Not Have Heard About” and “COVID Fatigue and Mental Health” have thousands of likes.
“Accounts like this can definitely be informative because everyone is allowed to voice their own opinions,” said sophomore Eric Bodeker.
Over the summer, many Instagram users posted a black square on their feed in solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement. While its goal was to show support for the Black community, it sparked a debate over whether people just posted the square to fit in with the crowd.
According to Urban Dictionary, this type of posting online has been dubbed “performance activism; when a person jumps on a political bandwagon in order to keep up appearances.”
“I believe most people who posted a black box for Black Lives Matter had good intentions,” said freshman Jessica Waldron. “But I think some people just did it because everyone else was, not because they truly supported the cause.”
Yet, not everyone thinks Instagram is the ideal place to have such conversations.
“It’s not the right spot to talk about these things,” said sophomore Paddy Francis. “When I’m on the app I don’t really need to see posts about current events. I’d rather check the news.”
Is posting a picture truly the most effective way to solve the world’s problems?
Junior Lorenzo Pusateri sees Instagram as an unproductive method of activism.
“If everyone is at home posting black squares on Instagram, they get the benefit of feeling like they did something, while not actually influencing real change,” said Pusateri. “When someone posts a political rant or opinion online, they get a pat on the back or some sense of unity within their social circle of people who agree with them.”
There are many other options to spread awareness in addition to sharing information with your friends.
“Signing petitions, writing to law-makers, donating money if you can, and going to peaceful protests do much more than posting a picture on your feed,” said Carr.