Hashtag Activism


Pictures seen under #blackouttuesday on Instagram. Source: https://voxatl.org/the-dangers-of-performative-activism/

In today’s age of activism, it is difficult to tell who is speaking out for genuine support of a cause and who is speaking out only to blend in with the crowd. Instagram has become a flurry of friends, family, and celebrities sharing social media messages under the guise of spreading awareness that, in reality, do more harm than good. 

For example, on June 2, 2020, many Instagram users participated in an event known as “blackout Tuesday” where they posted pictures of black screens under the #blackouttuesday. This was meant to spread awareness for the recent tragic killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and more. Though participating in these performative events does not make you a bad person, it does little to further the actual cause you claim to support. With every hashtag or trend emerging, the message becomes diluted and the tragedy becomes trivialized.

 In life there is only one universal truth: we can always rely on celebrities to share tone-deaf messages in times of sorrow. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, Gal Gadot shared a compilation-style cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine” featuring celebrities Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, Jimmy Fallon, and more. Each celebrity was allotted a line from the iconic song and instructed to sing it into the camera.

As expected, this faced a lot of backlash. Many found the video insensitive to post while thousands of people around the world were dying yet these celebrities were tucked away somewhere in a mansion, singing awkwardly into the camera of their iPhones. In general, though, most people just found it weird that their priorities during this time were to edit together an off-key cover. As Pedro Pascal, actor in Games of Thrones and Narcos, ironically sings the line “imagine no possessions” from his ivory tower, the world is descending into chaos around him.

Hopefully, we can learn from their mistakes since it seems like they will keep stumbling back into the cycle of performative activism. Rather than sharing an arbitrary phrase or reposting a picture, there are many alternate options to contribute something more substantial. Start by signing every petition you come across for the causes you believe in. Donate if you have the means. Share infographics and information for others on social media. As long as you are addressing the issue head-on and not showing your support in a convoluted way, you can be proud in knowing that you are actively participating in the process of change.