Since the start of February, we have seen posts, retweets and hashtags showing support for Black History Month. The content comes from people of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. Some of these people believe that, through their posts, they have made a change and engaged in internet activism.
Brittanica defines digital or internet activism as a“form of activism that uses the internet and digital media as key platforms for mass mobilization and political action.”
However, we have seen in the events of the past few years how “internet activism”has either become a loose term representing any small sign of attention to injustice or a performance to look good in front of followers.
An example would be the tag#blackouttuesday that was started by the music industry and spread on Instagram with an image of a black square on June 2, 2020. The music industry stopped business activity that day toprotest police brutality against the Black community.
The hashtag quickly became a trend. A simple scroll through Instagram that day would show black squares posted by people who had never previously shown support for the Black community. And on June 3, the day after, most people went back to posting their normal content.
People were left looking good to their followers and feeling like they had made a change after simply posting a black square to their social media feed. The unfortunate truth is they did not.
The truth is it takes more than a black square, a repost or a hashtag to be an activist.
Spreading awareness through social media is good, but it shouldn’t be something you do one day and forget about the next.
Making a post about an issue you think more people need to know about is OK, but don’t expect it to cause change on its own.
Taking photos, especially posed ones, at protests just for content does not make someone an activist.
The correct way to engage in internet activism is to spread continuous, active awareness with reliable sources, donate to an organization or charity you support, participate in a march or protest, help someone you know in the community who is directly impacted and, above all, hold a sincere passion for the injustice you are choosing to fight against.
The true meaning of “internet activism” needs to be remembered; it is using the internet and social media as tools to call attention to injustice, followed by sincere, direct work within the community to cause change.