Superficial Instagram activism deters action

Annika Bereny, Centerfold Editor

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It all began in 8th grade, when my friends and I organized the March 14 walkout for gun violence at our middle school.

When we heard about the nationwide walkouts students were planning, we knew we had to join in. Together, our we went to a few student council meetings, bargained with admin on the specific details and tried to spread awareness on social media and the school announcements. When the day finally came, it seemed like such a dream: a couple hundred middle schoolers parading around the school, with my friends and me at the front yelling chants through a megaphone.

After that experience, I thought I knew everything about activism; I thought I was a big fish in the small PaloAlto activist pond. But then, the March 24 gun violence protest came, and I was out of town; the Women’s March came, and I slept through it. I missed every protest Iactually had to make an effort for. During the recent Climate Strike, I sat in class throughout the march, tapping through Instagram stories, liking and retweeting pictures from the strike. There I was, the self-titled “activist kid,” watching the world pass me by.

After the Climate Strike, I met up with my friends who had skipped class to go to the event in San Jose. They made signs, took the train and stood up for what they believedin. The spontaneity that seemed to flow through their veins had hit a dam in mine. The event was cool, they said. They made friends and felt like a part of the movement. Sounds dope, I told them. I wish I could have come, since I’m feeling like such an Instagram activist lately.

Silence. I looked around. “I’m not an Instagram activist, am I?” I asked them. One of my friends looked down. “You kind of are,” she said.

I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t be an Instagram activist. I couldn’t be one of those people who followed @feminist on Instagram, but stayed silent when faced with injustice. I couldn’t be one of those people who sees everyone putting one specific post on their Instagram story and rushes to put it on theirs too in support. I was different; I posted screenshots of tweets where you could see that I retweeted it and then filled up the rest of the page with text explaining just how bad this issue actually was. I always found adifferent post from the one everyone was posting just to show that I was different. I was a “real” activist.

Yet slowly, I realized that I was an Instagram activist after all; all I did was post about issues without actually doing anything. I had a sense of moral superiority because I had organized a protest once. But I can’t call myself an activist unless I actually make an effort to be one.

Look, I get that not everyone can just drop everything and go to a protest, but there are other ways to get involved. If you truly care about these issues, there are ways to help beyond donating: get involved with a campaign, knock on doors and work for your cause. You have to fight for the future that you believe in.