Reposting a four-by-four graphic on your Instagram story isn’t as powerful as you think it is.
Social media has proven to be a powerful tool in raising awareness and fostering change, providing ordinary individuals with a platform to speak out on important issues. Still, limiting activism to the confines of social media reduces real-world problems to trends, diminishing the depth of understanding and the quality of discourse around these issues.
These multifaceted challenges can’t be adequately distilled through simplistic slogans, aesthetically pleasing graphics, or catchy hashtags. Oversimplifying complex issues reduces the nuance necessary for a comprehensive understanding and exposes people to the spread of misinformation.
Spreading misinformation, intentionally or not, undermines the credibility of social media as a platform for activism and hinders the efficacy of efforts that are genuine
and not born from a desire to join a social media trend.
The ongoing crisis in the Middle East and the war in Ukraine are a testament to this.
A viral video posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, claimed to show a Hamas fighter shooting down an Israeli helicopter. It was later revealed the clip, which had over 230,000 views, was taken from the video game Arma 3. A similar clip from the same video game was shared on Facebook, purported to be live attacks on Ukraine by Russia in 2022.
When misinformation spreads through an oversimplified narrative, it becomes much harder to dispel. People resist complex, nuanced explanations in favour of a straightforward narrative.
Oversimplification encourages binary thinking, polarizing discussions, and creates an us-versus-them mentality. This way of thinking further fuels division and discourages meaningful discourse that comes from thinking critically about complex materials.
While social media can serve as a starting point for raising awareness, it shouldn’t be the endpoint for social change.
The feeling of having done something substantial by clicking a button can lead to complacency, preventing people from taking tangible actions that make more significant differences. The term “slacktivism” aptly describes this phenomenon of individuals mistaking online engagement for genuine, impactful involvement in a cause.
The implications of social media activism are far more wide reaching than people realize. The constant exposure to distressing news, viral videos of injustices, and graphic images can be emotionally exhausting and can take a large toll on users’ mental health. The constant barrage of distressing content can lead to feelings of helplessness, anxiety, and despair, ultimately eroding the motivation to engage in meaningful activism.
While social media may be beneficial in raising awareness and depicting the gravity of global issues, that is often as far as it can go. As users, we must remain diligent and critical of the content we are consuming on social media.
We can’t fall victim to social media activism.
Allie is a third-year political studies student and The Journal’s Senior Lifestyle Editor.
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