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14 July 2020 | Columns

Justicia Shipena

Social media is great for many things, like sharing photos of your vacation, slick eyeliner or outfit. Activism, however, is not one of them.

On Instagram, in particular, users like to pat themselves on the back for mindlessly reposting about a social movement. Instagram users often litter their stories with the remnants of past political movements. But here’s the kicker: No one does anything else after social media posts to actually make a change.

I’ve seen way too many mindlessly reposting. People will repost the sympathetic video that promises to plant trees, save the rhinos or bring aid to people in Yemen on social media platforms. Reposting makes us feel like we are contributing, as if we’re an upstanding citizen just because we took 10 extra seconds to tap buttons and let our followers know the world is dying.

It makes us think we are an active participant in a greater movement for change, but that’s the problem: We aren’t doing anything by just reposting.

Social media deserves a role in activism, but it should not end there. The internet makes the dissemination of information so much easier. Because information is readily available, we have the power to make a change by raising awareness about social issues.

However, we can also use our platforms to remain lazy while we pretend to say something. Reposting on Instagram is not the same thing as voting or canvassing. It’s not the same thing as tapping into civic engagement to create change in a community.

We’ve become content in using other people’s work as a substitute for our own views because, in reality, the creators of these social media movements don’t want us to stop at just a repost, they want us to take it beyond the screen.

While being informed is important, investing in activism is something entirely different. It transcends a measly post on your Instagram story. Activism is initiating something greater; it is being motivated to air your views and incite a movement that could change your community, or even the nation.

The end goal is not just to spread awareness, it’s to make a movement into law.

To be an activist, you can find people who believe in the same thing and march, write articles, make art or anything else that can make political noise.

A successful example of proactivity through social media is the March For Our Lives movement. Teenagers curated the movement through the internet and reached out to find people with similar mindsets to incite global investment in their mission.

They used social media, not just to raise awareness, but also to move communities to change policy. The global recognition surpassed just a name – it became an organisation through the passion of people who wanted to make it more than just a headline.

March For Our Lives, however, seems to be a rare occurrence. Some may say reposting photos on social media platforms helps promote awareness at a faster rate, but raising awareness in this way does not always promote a sense of urgency. Instead, we find ourselves comfortable sharing posts that do not elicit any substantive change.

In fact, it makes us lazy and apathetic by allowing us to feel satisfied, despite not reaching a policy change. We hide behind screens instead of facing the world’s issues head-on.

Posting calls for action on social media can be trendy. However, it does not contribute to anything other than a personal sense of achievement.

We all want to feel like we are good people, even when our actions do not contribute to the greater good. Posting on Instagram about some issue you barely know about does not make you woke. In fact, it makes you the catalyst of a greater issue: Indifference stemming from laziness.