With the growing popularity of social media activism, a performative version could be growing just as strong.
BY CARLY WITT, ’23.
Ever since March, the world has been changing and evolving constantly with people learning and educating themselves on different topics. Topics such as police brutality, racism, politics and the coronavirus have been talked about more and more these past months. Social media sharing has become a big part of how people learn and communicate with their peers and share opinions and perspectives.
News outlets and large organizations such as the CDC, World Health Organization and medical journals have been using social media to update and spread new information about the pandemic across Facebook, Twitter, Tiktok and other platforms. Graphics, statistics and petitions have been popping up on people’s feeds more frequently. In an article by The Daily Universe, author Spencer McWilliams said that especially for college students, petitions are a great way to get the word out because most college and high school students don’t have the financial means to donate to causes.
However, with this comes the murky waters of performative activism: activism done to increase one’s social media appeal rather than actually show their devotion or commitment to the issue. Many times, it can happen without people even noticing.
In June 2020, a video of journalist Fiona Moriarty-McLaughlin was posted of her posing with a drill pretending to be boarding up a window for a photo. The video spread across many platforms, and McLaughlin lost sponsorships along with credibility in her field. Even though this occurred, many times this same form goes unnoticed or is not treated in the same way.
“ I don’t know if I would call [performative activism] a problem but it is definitely very prominent,” sophomore KK Murphy said.
One of the most recently cited examples of this type of activism was “Blackout Tuesday,” which occurred on June 2 when Instagram users posted black squares on their feed in alliance with Black Lives Matter and to protest the death of George Floyd.
However, this caused issues when people would use #blacklivesmatter on their post, which clogged up the hashtag often used for information about safety at protests with black squares.
“While it did bring awareness, it took a minor step back from what the actual goal was,” Murphy said.
On the other hand, some may believe that even this type of activism is better than none at all to at least make some users aware of the situation and its breadth. Still, Murphy sees it as a way to gain personal clout rather than to actually help others.
Murphy said, “It’s the difference of doing a good thing and making a change.”