They come in pastel colors, bubble letters and sleek, attractive designs. They fill our Instagram feeds, stories and are shoved into our digital spaces. Instagram infographics are rebranding modern activism and packaging prominent social issues like racial and gender inequality, climate justice, gun violence and LGBTQ+ rights into bow-tied presents to be unboxed by our Instagram social nets.
An infographic is the use of an image, statistic or minimalistic text that gives a digestible overview of a topic. During the start of the pandemic, when most teens turned to technology as an escape from the current reality of life at home, infographics flooded our feeds with a reality that this country has long swept under the rug. Racial inequality, injustice and police brutality towards the black community have always been around and nothing is being done.
In May of 2020, Minneapolis and African American George Perry Floyd Jr. was killed and a video of officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, began to circle the internet. A world rendered lifeless from the pandemic left us to face barebone problems of racial injustice in our society. A seemingly perfect storm for the Black Lives Matter movement was created. Furthermore, modern civil rights activism manifested into our social media.
Infographics at the minimum achieve awareness. They aim to educate in an accessible way that promotes further activism, like donating money to causes, helping out in communities, getting involved and informing people where to protest.
But these well-intentioned and activism-driven posts do beg the question of how much awareness can be spread before real palatable action will be taken, by us on an individual and societal level.
To start, infographic posts are typically made to look “cute” and fit an unrealistic Instagrammable aesthetic. Is it appropriate to make activism aesthetically pleasing? It creates an atmosphere that allows for difficult social subjects to be painted in a rose-colored glass manner and ultimately draws the magnitude of the seriousness out of a subject, arguably a key tactic in activism.
Instagram infographics are giving the illusion of making change without addressing an individual’s contribution to the problem at hand. Infographics cannot dismantle systemic issues. It is comparable to America’s political scene where problems are heavily emphasized but often never addressed due to political gridlock.
This feeds into the realm of performative activism, activism done to increase your social capital rather than your devotion to a cause. Posting infographics can oftentimes be heavily influenced by what your Instagram “social circle” posts. You may be prompted to post an infographic to convey your position on a subject, but what good does that do to the subject matter itself? We are seeing more self-motivation in Instagram activism posts than we ourselves actively protest, read, donate and make individual changes in our lives.
Social media is now an essential tool in activism. It helps activists reach large quantities of people and gain a following. We should not stop these tough conversations. We should ask ourselves why they are being held in such a “glazed over” way and what that says about ourselves and the platform we are using. Talk to your families, friends and community members about issues you care about. Address your contribution to issues like racial and gender inequality, climate justice, gun violence and LGBTQ+ rights. Aesthetically palatable activism is not the only way to digest difficult subjects and often the first step is with yourself.