You remember the black square Instagram flood of 2020, and the following backlash which brought to common use the term “performative activism.” When someone performs activism, they do something with no real impact and claim to be part of a movement, just as so many did with Black Lives Matter.
Now, if you don’t share the Instagram story sticker about it, some people you follow will effectively decide you don’t care about the war in Ukraine. This decision will pay no mind to the fact that they can’t remember the details of the Israel-Palestine conflict they vehemently made the same statements about last year, just that if you’re not sharing, you’re not caring.
But silence on Instagram is not the worst thing you can do, contrary to what the carousel posts will tell you. The worst thing you can do is assume ten slides in popular fonts and color schemes could possibly inform you accurately on a decades long imperialist conflict.
Accounts like @shityoushouldcareabout are amongst the main perpetrators of this awful trend. Right beside a quirky graphic reading “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Explained” you’ll find “Today’s mundane poll: is the romcom dead?” While creating easily digestible information packages is no sin, to assume only interacting with these posts qualifies as complete education or “caring” is just thoughtless.
The constantly updated feed of accounts like this both sensationalize and minimize political, social and world-scale issues by giving each of them equal square-shaped space. This week you will learn about Ukraine, but next week there will be something new to “care” about, and your feed will forget the thing you considered the moral difference between you and others last week.
Going viral for a post about a war treats the actual war as a viral thing, but the issue is that the conflict will not end when the retweets do. Months ago you’ll recall seeing posts about the war in Yemen, or maybe you won’t, because the posts stopped being made.
I’m not going to claim to be all-knowing about world conflicts, because I admit that the 24-hour news cycle overwhelms me too. But I know that making posts about it doesn’t add to my influence, or tell most of my followers anything they haven’t already seen that morning.
That said, it’s easy to be fooled by the aesthetics of it all. We’ve been taught to have so much distrust in mainstream media that it makes sense to turn to other sources, but in the process we have placed trust in ones entirely less credible.
If you want to begin to learn about Ukraine, and what you can do to give meaningful help to the people in danger, look to direct sources. Evaluate information critically — who is posting it, how did they get their information, is that information from a biased source? Look to educators right here at Ramapo. It’s not as quick or gratifying as your Instagram story, but it is infinitely more valuable.
Beyond that, you can find solace in knowing that it is, in fact, okay if you don’t understand what’s going on in every corner of the world. You can learn quietly and gather information to form an opinion slowly. No one is really checking the sticker to see who of their 500 followers didn’t repost it, anyway.
When the posts make you feel helpless, and the stories make you feel inconsiderate, look for ways to make change in your community. There are people who need help everywhere, and the biggest difference you can make is dedicating yourself to one action at a time.