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Is Social Media Affecting Activism?

Written by Miri Pottebaum

Production Designer

Social Media is prevalent in so many people's lives these days, and we know so many of the positive and negative effects at this point. One aspect we are not talking about enough is performative activism. Performative activism is activism done to increase one's social capital rather than because of one's devotion to a cause. 

When I see people posting and resharing content, I assume that it is something they connect with, relate to, or support. It makes sense that you would want to share that with people who follow you, typically your friends and family. But when those posts are more for the validation of doing “something right” than they are to simply share things with people in your life, the issue of performative activism comes up. 

One of the biggest things I think about when it comes to performative activism is the echo chamber that is social media. Because of all the algorithms that run these platforms, people typically only see content that they agree with or relate to in some way. On an app like Instagram, where your posts are mostly viewed by people you actually know, you tend to already have similar opinions on things. Who are you reaching by sharing a cute graphic on your story that stands for or against some political or social movement? Has the point of the post become to show the world that you have the same opinion as them? 

Gen X has grown up with and on social media, and the dopamine hit we feel from receiving positive feedback online has started to control us. Seeing the numbers go up next to the heart button on something that you shared with the world is a great feeling, but we cannot let those numbers and those feelings control us anymore. Share a picture of you and your friends having a nice day, not the photo shoot you had while volunteering. 

Of course, no one is perfect, and no one is expecting you to be. I post things that I am passionate about and believe are important. But I am also doing the work to support those organizations and causes. I no longer feel like I need the world to know that I am doing “something good.” Putting in the work and support is what really matters to me, and is what will reconnect me, and our generation, to activism.

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