A police officer is framed in a hole of a tattered flag hanging upside down outside City Hall in downtown Los Angeles on Thursday. (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times)
Orange County School of the Arts

Opinion: An Instagram post is not activism

In response to the murder of George Floyd, protests against police brutality have erupted across the country. Worryingly, teenagers have turned to social media to express their views.

Naturally, teenagers often use social media platforms to make political and social statements. Whenever a pride parade or a women’s march comes around, my Instagram feed is flooded with face-paint, inclusive hashtags and colorful signs.

These glittery, festival-esque demonstrations beautifully illustrate acceptance and solidarity. Still, snapping aesthetic pictures while empowering music plays is more fun than it is revolutionary. 

On Tuesday, Instagram users posted black squares to express support for the Black Lives Matter movement. There are almost 30 million Instagram posts that have been tagged with #BlackOutTuesday, while the George Floyd petition on Change.org only has 16 million signatures. 

The overwhelming involvement in #BlackOutTuesday led some to question its effectiveness.

“[N]ot tryna be announcing but what if we posted donation and petitions links on instagram all at the same time instead of pitch black images,” rapper Lil Nas X tweeted

The intentions behind #BlackOutTuesday were sincere, and political awareness in teens is important. Still, social media trends do not help instill concrete change, and may instead encourage inaction.

Worryingly, #BlackOutTuesday provided an easy way for people to participate in the Black Lives Matter movement, thus distracting from more helpful support methods.

Furthermore, it encouraged conformity, thus diminishing the sincerity amongst participants who felt pressured to follow the trend.

It is important to understand that activism is not an easy or straightforward act. A black square posted to Instagram does not have the potential to create concrete change.

Above all, activism should not be a performance. If you want to support the Black Lives Matter movement, but protesting is not an option, learn about opportunities to sign petitions and make donations.

To create change, we must be active and remain involved in what we believe in.