In an era heavily reliant on technology and social media, many swarm to platforms like Twitter and Instagram for global news on society, politics and anything else that pops up on their feed. Such issues catch fire and manifest in hashtags, such as “#blacklivesmatter” or “#pride,” that organize related content in an accessible manner. However, the superficiality of social media can cloud the purpose of such tags, resulting in a meaningful cause morphing into a new trend.
Performance activism refers to activism done to increase social capital rather than show devotion to a cause. The “#blackouttuesday” trend, enacted June 3, encompassed the issue of performance activism when promoting a cause through social media. Originally pitched by music executives Brianna Agyemang and Jamila Thomas under the title “The Show Must Be Paused,” the campaign aimed to create a social media and economic “blackout,” asking people to refrain from buying, selling or posting to show economic strength and unity. Platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music dedicated an 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence in certain podcasts in honor of George Floyd and promoted stations celebrating African American music and artists.
However, the movement turned sour as people flooded tags with black screens to show “solidarity” without contributing much else to the cause. Misuse of hashtags led to the posts bleeding out of the “#blackouttuesday” tag and into the “#blacklivesmatter” and other protest tags, overwhelming potentially helpful hashtags with meaningless black screens and drawing attention away from helpful posts about organizations in need, petitions to sign and proper allyship. Instagram stories and easily archivable posts about such a pressing issue reduced an effort for national solidarity to a trend with a 24-hour expiration date.
Allyship does not manifest in a one week performative act. To show consistent allyship, commit to educating yourself, learning from mistakes and staying aware of the situation. Social media allows a level of connectivity across the world to create change and that should be used as a tool, not a decoration.
To show your support for the Black Lives Matter movement and the end of police brutality, sign petitions, donate to the cause, find an organization near you to contact or check out this website for other opportunities for advocacy. Check out our article on how to get involved in the Black Lives Matter movement from home.