The Social Shell



    George Floyd was killed by a white police officer last summer after suspicions that Floyd had a counterfeit 20 dollars, the Black Lives Matter protests were in full swing. Not only were the streets erupting with marchers, but our phones were erupting as well. Anytime anything wrong happens in the world, my generation turns to Instagram to post a pretty little infographic that a random account made to show that they “truly care” and are an “activist.” Instagram is not any sort of activism that will bring meaningful change. 

   Over these past months, I have seen many of my peers fall into a trap of reposting every single thing they see about world issues on social media, clicking through hundreds of the same posts and infographics. I have fallen into this trap as well of sharing infographics over social media, purely because I didn’t want my peers to think of me as someone who doesn’t care about those issues. When everyone your age is posting about social issues, you feel the pressure of posting because you are scared of what others might think if you have a differing opinion, or maybe you just don’t want to post 50 things on your stories that no one is going to read, especially if some of that information has fallacies. 

   For example, late last summer there was a big conspiracy theory that was in the spotlight again. Basically saying that some of the things you buy off of Wayfair (an online furniture store) come with kidnapped children. I saw many people posting all of these claims across social media and things like “How to help the Wayfair Kids” but in reality, it was a far-right conspiracy theory that someone on TikTok blew up. Gen Z has not lived in a world without social media, people my age get so caught up in social media that we forget to actually process the information we are getting. 

   I have seen many fallacies being spread on the internet and false claims of not only political figures but people in our own community, spread through drama profiles. I have also seen some very disrespectful things being posted on social media which could have easily been prevented with some simple research. When the amazing justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away last September. Many commemorated her life and legacy on social media with the phrase “RIP”, or rest in peace, is a phrase that dates back to the eighth century when it started appearing on Christian gravestones — it has biblical roots. The problem with this is that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was Jewish.

   Performative activism, or “slacktivism” as some say, is surface-level activism. I am tired of seeing the hypocrisy when my peers are so enthralled with posting on social media about “saving our planet” and “why we need to stop saying the r-word” while using racial or derogatory words and throwing their trash out of the window. 

   Social media already has so many fallacies that posting news and infographics may only decrease people’s trust in social media. I completely understand how easy it is to get your news on social media by some random account shouting their opinion at you through a screen. News should be factual not opinionated. But when you post something on your story that has to do with news or current events in a pretty infographic, I already know you don’t read the news. If adolescents today took the time to read the news from multiple sources (I prefer BBC or CNN Newsroom) then their ideals of this world would shift.

   I would like to say that I am far from a conservative, most of these things being shared on the internet are extremely left-sided. Even though I may agree with some of the things on my feed, it doesn’t mean it is any less of a problem. In fact, it is more of a problem. Right now, my generation is in an echo chamber. In an echo chamber our social media feeds will keep reinforcing our preexisting views, and as soon as someone has a differing opinion, we get angry at them because they don’t have the “right” or “popular” opinion. I don’t want to share the same ideas with everyone, there is no room to create my own opinion, it is boring and dangerous. As soon as we are confronted with a different opinion it is hard to look at that opinion with an open mind. Our generation has become, for lack of a better word, stubborn when it comes to new ideas. I want to have a conversation with someone with a different perspective; I want to be challenged and be a critical thinker. But when Gen Z’s first instinct is to cancel someone who doesn’t agree with them, it is very hard to find people with their own opinions. Be friends with people who disagree, talk to them and learn from them. 

    Things like performative activism can be dangerous and distract from the real problem at hand. People need to ask themselves, “Does this actually help?” before posting, and chances are it most don’t. Real change has to come from educating others and taking action. If you want meaningful change, then educate and inform your peers in person, because no one is taking that infographic seriously. If you want to see real change, go to protests, march alongside other people to send the message that people care. Posting things just to check off a box is only helping you and being selfish is not going to help bring about change. 

   I think many people my age have fallen into the trap of performative activism. When I was posting things I never thought it would fix anything. I was just scared of what my peers would think of me. I do care about these issues and I want to help. But how? Some things that you can do to educate yourself and make an impact are volunteering, there are many great organizations such as Houses into Homes and The Crisis Center,  it is a great way to educate yourself on what people in poverty are going through and you can really help someone and make a positive change in their life. On the government side, there are many opportunities for students to get involved, there is the Iowa Youth Advisory Council, being a part of this can give you a first-hand look into how legislation is made, you can also share your ideas to enact positive change in your state.