Your Instagram Story Is Not Enough
After social media forgets, what are you doing to fight for Black lives?
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail (1963)
There is no denying the importance of social media in modern activism. Some praise it as a “liberation technology,” creating new channels to spread awareness and organize in a decentralized model that is not limited by geography. Since Instagram and Twitter were created, they have been the core instruments in monumental social movements including but not limited to the Arab Spring, Black Lives Matter, and #MeToo. By sharing opinions and videos, social media platforms have turned traditional news media on its head by giving a voice to civilians.
However, as social media activism has abounded and more people have begun to participate in the platform ecosystem, it has mutated into a form of disingenuous and passive “protest” that is usually limited to reposting digestible quotes and viral videos. The word slacktivism was coined in 1995 by Fred Clark to refer to grassroots social activism on an individual and personal scale, particularly by young people. In 2020 it is a negative term, used to criticize online activism that is not backed up by real political commitment.
But what does it mean to be truly committed to a cause?
It’s too easy for people to share viral moments on Twitter or Instagram and think that they have done their part.
On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died in police custody after four (now former) police officers used excessive force to arrest him under suspicion of forgery, a nonviolent crime. The footage of the incident exploded on social media, leading to hundreds of protesters on the steps of the Minneapolis Police Department the following day. George Floyd was an unarmed Black man. Just a few weeks earlier, footage surfaced of another extrajudicial murder of an unarmed Black man. On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by two White men in…