Repost Activism and Why it Needs to Stop

We have all seen the numerous Snapchat and Instagram stories people have reposted with the same hashtags and messages as their way of bringing attention to a social issue. This is something referred to as “slacktivism” or repost activism, as many simply repost a picture or retweet something as their way of spreading awareness and being an advocate for whatever it is the post is talking about. This phenomenon has only spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic as we are all stuck at home and given the recent events across the country.

The St. Louis Public Radio did a talk in 2014 in regard to repost activism. The radio show discussed social media’s role in either helping or hurting activism. While in theory, sharing and spreading a message about a social issue is a helpful way to encourage conversations regarding certain topics, many critique the online efforts of people, saying that their repost or change in profile picture is merely a lazy attempt at making themselves look like they care about a cause.

When the recording of Ahmaud Arbery’s murder surfaced on social media, the hashtag #runwithmaud was suddenly trending on virtually every platform. Almost every Snapchat or Instagram story I clicked on were the same posts about justice for Ahmed. Though no resolution was really brought when the murder occurred in February of this year, it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that the Georgia bureau of investigation, as a result of public pressure, arrested two individuals for the murder of Arbery. I suppose that one could say social media is helpful in terms of creating change, as it could be argued that the arrests of the two individuals for Ahmaud’s murder were indeed a result of the pressure created by social media.

But, on the other hand, the St. Louis radio talks about evidence that show many of those who simply reposted or liked a post wouldn’t be any more likely than someone who had never heard of the cause to support it at all. Which leads one to question what the purpose of just reposting something or changing your profile picture to support a cause is. For those who retweet or like a post believing that it is truly making a difference are unfortunately slightly mistaken. While you are contributing to the awareness being brought onto a certain issue, what activism needs and consists of is action and awareness. You cannot expect social change to just occur from everyone reposting the same picture, that’s a little absurd.

Now, that is not to say that I am bashing anyone who reposts or likes something in regards to a social issue because awareness does need to be spread. And of course, not everyone has to be an activist and simply sharing a post that aligns with the same beliefs you do is not bad at all. Unfortunately, not everyone can put in the time and dedication into being an activist either, and that’s okay.

That being said, reposting an image, using a hashtag, or liking a post  as an individual’s only form of activism is not really considered activism in my opinion. Real change needs awareness AND action. Not just one or the other. By reverting to actions that require less effort to support a cause, policy change is not actually occurring. Unfortunately, change doesn’t just occur if a lot of attention is received, which we have seen with various social issues that have been around for decades, that do receive a tremendous amount of attention but remain a social issue. What is needed is effort. A deep and meaningful connection to the cause one is fighting for, and I’m sorry to say that reposting an image does not suddenly make anyone an activist. I realize that anyone who reposts or likes an image is not labeling themselves as an activist and this is not against anyone who does, but it is merely a means of trying to bring attention to the fact that we need to stray away from the popular notions that sharing a post or reposting something is going to fix all of society’s issues. If we as a society want change, we have to put in the time and dedication for it, not just sit behind a computer or phone screen.

In order to really promote change, one has to think critically about the societal system we live in, and the systems we interact with on a regular basis – not just like a post and go on with our live and think that we did our good deed for the day. No. Activism starts there, not ends there. If you can and want to help a cause, think about maybe helping by signing petitions or even donating money to support those who can put in the time to be present at protests. I invite you to think about why and what you are trying to achieve by reposting an image promoting a social issue, and maybe refrain from doing so if you’re only doing it because everyone else is, and not because it’s something you actually care about.