Hello Snapchatters, Instagrammers, round the clock texters and the other screen slaves who were not addressed in the previous three titles. I am here today to tell you about a social epidemic that has plagued social media platforms. Yes, I am talking about the act of re-posting. A simple function that our media platforms have decided to award much more value and prestige to than it has ever deserved.
Think back to late November 2018: Everywhere you looked – every Instagram story, every other post – Rhinos were being hunted for their tusks. It seemed that you couldn’t turn anywhere without seeing the thumbnail of the video depicting the tragedy occurring oceans away. Now I am a pretty patient and understanding person, but this really started to bother me. I began asking the question: do these people really care? Or are they just re-posting to feel better about themselves? Our social media culture today is one of validation, meaning we center our media decisions and actions around what will get us the most positive attention and feedback in the quickest way possible. Reposting a video to your Instagram story takes under 30 seconds. It’s still less than a minute if you want to add a small gif or a string of crying emojis.
I’m sure some people are staring at this article right now wondering where the problem is. If it hasn’t already jumped out at you, I will provide it plainly. Re-posting a photo does nothing but raise awareness amongst peers. While raising awareness is an important step in social movements, it is no longer enough. Awareness is just the first move. Watching Instagram explode for 24 hours with the same video that will then be nowhere to be found in two days time is a pathetic mask for the fact that we are not doing anything to actually help. We’re just using the act of re-posting to make ourselves feel better about it.
Come on people, we all know exactly what is happening in this world today. We just make the conscious decision to re-post, forget, ignore and move on. Is re-posting a photo on your
Instagram story enough to end world hunger, enough to stop the tragedies occurring to the rhinoceros populations, enough to bring clean water to Flint Michigan, enough to decrease poverty levels in developing countries? No. So why do we continue to do it? Because it makes us look and feel good. We appear worldly and up to date on the latest global news. When we repost a video of activists screaming for freedom from oppression we give off the impression that we are social warriors ourselves, and we love how dynamic that makes us look to our followers.
Newsflash: real change will never happen if we continue to hide behind our screens. Do the people starving in a third world country know that a video featuring their community went viral for 24 hours? No. Would they care? Absolutely not. Want to know why? Because nothing was done to help them from it. We simply felt sorry and moved on. You cannot eat sympathy shared through a screen.
I understand you may feel as though re-posting is the only thing you can do at this point in your life and you’d rather do that than nothing, but if everyone had this attitude then nothing would ever get done. The harsh reality is that you can always do more. Social media has taken the power out of real action, taken away all its value and then fed it back to us in the form of posting a photo. So I urge you to break your tie to this social media disease. See the power in your actions and your vocalized words. Do not feed into the scam that sharing a photo is enough, that awareness through a video can change the world. Instead of re-populating Instagram with a picture, put down your phone and do something about it. If you truly care like you claim you do by taking 30 seconds to repost, then you should be willing to spend 30 minutes making a donation – however small – attending a rally – whatever the weather – or getting out into the community groups advocating for real change – no matter your age.
But hey, if you want to re-post a photo to feel better about yourself and your place in the social media parade of arrogance and self-importance then be my guest. But know this: women didn’t win the vote by sharing pamphlets for one day. SeaWorld and Marineland didn’t decide to stop housing Orcas because one tweet went viral. Slavery wasn’t abolished because a small group of people decided to share one story for 24 hours. Real, vital and viable change occurred through human action. Even though we have moved into a technology era, some things will never change. Call on all humans, re-discover your own humanity and disconnect from the screens that have burned their presence in your back pocket and retinas. The box of awareness has been checked. It’s time to move on from it and gain the courage, free from social media, to take the next steps toward changing the world. And not just for likes on Instagram.