If you are reading this, you are on the internet. Since you have been on the internet in the past 8 months you have probably heard the term performative activism. What qualifies an act as performative activism varies depending on who you ask, but the generally accepted definition is “activism that is done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause.” Instagram specifically has come under fire as a platform where performative activism thrives. Sharing a post on your Instagram story takes two clicks, which is a blessing and a curse. It takes one second to share a post about something, which is great to help spread information, but in this era where some people are more concerned by likes and clickthrough rates people may share these posts to get higher profile engagement and less because of dedication to a cause.
What qualifies an act as performative activism varies depending on who you ask, but the generally accepted definition is “activism that is done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause.”
#blackouttuesday, #georgefloyd, and #blacklivesmatter were taken over by plain black squares, some captioned with apologies for ancestors’ actions, or promises to do better. However, this is not necessarily the point, while it is nice to see a lot more people, specifically white people, being more cognizant of the racial disparities around the world it is less about apologizing for past actions and more about working for a more equal future. Discriminatory hiring, housing, policing, and loaning practices, among other things, need to be actively worked against instead of providing lukewarm apologies for people we have never met. This is yet again another example of performative activism.
Like I said above, performative activism is not inherently a bad thing. The mass sharing of hashtags and posts containing materials and resources has given some organizations a huge boost in donations and awareness. It is certainly a social concept to be cognizant of but not one to rule your life. The next time you share something as yourself “is this benefiting me more than the people it is designed to support?” if the answer is “yes” maybe think twice. Do a little research and share things that will genuinely benefit discriminated against individuals, the internet is both a beautiful and a horrible place, try to make it a little better with your personal actions.
the internet is both a beautiful and a horrible place, try to make it a little better with your personal actions.
Written By Rachel Anderson, Associate Director of Education and Programming