Banana Peels: Social Media Activism

A column on the somewhat slippery topics of today’s generation

Julissa Mendozarobles, News Editor

During a time where so much is done online, social media has become a popular platform for users to spread information and opinions on social issues in our world.  It only takes a few clicks for someone to share a post on their story for all their followers to see—an action known as reposting.  For those who aren’t able to advocate through actions like protesting, donating, and volunteering, social media offers an easy way to show support by reposting.

While reposting can be effective, it’s important to remember to do more than that—especially when it comes to being a good ally. Not doing so can lead to coming off as a performative activist—someone who uses activism as a way to make themselves look good rather than a devotion to a cause or issue or genuine allyship. Another term—slacktivism—refers to when you don’t engage in meaningful support beyond very simple actions, like reposting.

If not done carefully, reposting can end up doing more harm than good.  There is an Instagram feature called “add yours” that allows users to make a prompt for followers to add a photo with on their story. Recently, there was an “add yours” stating “Share if you think black lives matter. I can see who skips” going around. Resharing that with a selfie does not accomplish anything. There was even one saying “Share if Hispanic lives matter.”  Not only did I not accept that as being an ally to my ethnicity, but I did not like that it was a spin on the phrase “Black lives matter.”  Adding “I can see who skips” also reinforces the idea that you need to repost on your story in order to be considered a good ally.  That can’t be further from the truth.  Reposting on social media isn’t the bare minimum—the bare minimum is being respectful to others regardless of their identity.

There is also the chance of unintentionally spreading misinformation. Many infographic-type posts are made with statistics that can be hard to verify on Instagram. When reposting an infographic, make sure the account is a reputable source or use other sources to verify if the information is true. If a post features resources, make sure to check them out. Not only should they be reliable, but good resources should help users educate themselves further and give context.

Even when done correctly, reposting is only capable of raising awareness if nothing else is done. Senior Sophie Bose expresses that “we need to work on dismantling our biases before we can work on dismantling systems of oppression.” It’s important to educate ourselves and that can be done by reading books or articles, or listening to people with an open mind about their experiences. There are other free and simple actions that can be taken to make change besides reposting: signing petitions, emailing or calling government officials, and voting. You can also try joining a club at school or organization in your community that strives to take action on the issues you care about most.  Consuming content produced by people of color or marginalized communities can be a good way to show support.

Sharing your thoughts when reposting can go a long way.  Before downloading Instagram, I assumed people wrote up their thoughts on social movements on their stories—and it was slightly disappointing to see that’s usually not the case. However, I always appreciate those that take the time to write out their thoughts, even if it’s only a few words of reaction that clarifies their stance.  I once wrote out my thoughts and experience on the need for children’s shows to be diverse and I liked reading people’s replies to my story. 

However, issues need to be addressed outside of social media for progress to be made. Ongoing problems, such as acts of violence against minority groups, shouldn’t have to rely on being a “trend” for people to care. Senior Ariel Igwe says that people should “practice what they preach” in the sense that no one should “pretend not to hear or gloss over a topic because it is inconvenient.”  I once had a friend who constantly reposts and educates themself on anti-racism and such.  However, at the end of the day they weren’t able to properly talk about my struggles with being a member of a low-income, Hispanic household. I was too hesitant to say something to them for a long time because it felt inconvenient, rather than standing up for myself and my experiences. Destigmatizing these seemingly “uncomfortable” discussions can make it easier for people to have productive discussions on their experiences, as well as for allies to stand up for others.

Whether or not you are a constant “reposter,” it is important to be self-aware when it comes to social media activism to ensure productive action is being taken in bettering the world.