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Culture > Digital

Are Instagram Infographics Helpful or Hurtful When it Comes to Spreading Awareness?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

The beauty of social media lies in the ability to disseminate information with just the click of a button. I know this isn’t earth shattering news — we all share our life updates and mindless thoughts, and repost photos to our Instagram accounts or retweet our favorite personalities daily, sharing others’ ideas that embody our own with our friends and followers, too. However, the concept of “Instagram activism” is relatively new; it seems that this year hasn’t only produced a myriad of negative events, but also an entirely new, questionable dimension of activism: Instagram infographics. 

For the less millennial, tech-savvy individuals, Instagram infographics basically consist of information regarding political topics or social movements, nicely scribbled with a Canva font onto a pastel background with carefully (eh, or not-so-carefully) curated illustrations. At first glance, it seems ingenious. What better way to garner attention to social movements, politics, and human rights issues than in a few, aesthetically pleasing sentences? And, yet, therein lies the issue. 

person holding a cell phone up in front of city buildings
Photo by Jakob Owens from Unsplash
Instagram infographics have become the bane of my existence. And this is coming from someone who quite literally slaves away on political Instagram content for a variety of different publications, including my own. The sheer amount of political and social content hitting Instagram daily dilutes and detracts from the message they’re attempting to spread – if that message is even factual to begin with. With millions of new content bites comes the incessant reposting, some admittedly well-intentioned and some simply no wanting to be left behind, or seen as culturally insensitive and ignorant.

Following that comes activism fatigue; the period I personally am at. On a typical day, I can see close to 50 different reposted infographics, all on varying subjects and social movements. When I first began to notice a change in my attention span, I felt overwhelming guilt. It felt as if I was not doing my part to contribute to all of these movements, via social media or hands-on contributions. 

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels
But social media graphics aren’t just personally and individually harmful — the lack of accountability has allowed anything with a pretty background and elusive, cursive font to go viral. A lack of sources, unchecked material, and even conflated, potentially manipulated messages can be spread completely detached from the movements or issues they claim to advocate for. Due to the origins of Instagram infographics, however, the unchecked, possibly unfounded messages are legitimized simply because of the font used by the creator. The creative graphic format has become the legitimate way to spread news: fact-checked or otherwise. 

That’s not to say there aren’t positives of this method of activism, because, yes, there’s almost always a positive, too. Think back to the pre-pandemic era (yeah, same, it’s not real to me either) and your Instagram feed. Infographics had just become a recognizable method of disseminating information, but were only commonly done well by select users. Social media accounts such as @soyouwanttotalkabout had not yet become mainstream sources of information, and a select few infographics emerged for major issues. At the time, these few infographics were able to accomplish their jobs: reach millions of users while quickly educating them on a certain issue. While the graphics may have been a little more “basic” in 2019, their overall message remained constant and – this is important – there weren’t numerous infographics flooding everyone’s Instagram feed. 

The persistent issue is that these infographics won’t end simply because we want them to. A good way to start holding creators accountable is by personally staying informed through credible, reputable sources. Whether it be a news network’s Twitter account, verified podcasts, or even cable news (archaic, I know), these sources allow for more independent accountability on our part, rather than just allowing Instagram infographics to overwhelm our feeds and minds.

Taking personal responsibility for our own education removes the self-inflicted pressure and guilt felt when viewing these graphics as we go through our social media feeds. 

Merry is a third-year political science & economics double major at Boston University. She is a former fashion merchandising major and hopes to work in editorial fashion, PR, or social media post-graduation while also focusing on the journalistic aspects of both her majors. She currently contributes to a number of publications while simultaneously working as an editor at Her Campus BU. Merry was also previously the managing editor of Her Campus at VCU and worked as an editorial intern for Her Campus Media. Contact her at mariamgnebiyu@gmail.com & @merry.nebiyu on Instagram.