Social Media Activism or Meaningless Moral Grandstanding?


A widely circulated image on social media for “Blackout Tuesday” meant to demonstrate a stand against racism and inequality. (Credit: USA Today)

At North High, many pride themselves in their political consciousness or activism. Innately political courses and clubs are accessible, allowing for political deliberation about historical and contemporary America. In their zeal, many take to social media, sharing articles and clips dedicated to current events.

However, not all social media activists attempt to spread factual information with good intentions. With such an accessible and public platform, it is not surprising that many parrot misinformation—intentionally or not.

With this in mind, how do students view social media activism by their peers? Is it raising political awareness, or is it meaningless moral grandstanding?

“Social media tends to be an easy outlet for slacktivism, and it prevents people from actually digging deep to look for information,” junior Sahar Tartak said. “It lowers our attention spans, and we get used to reading little blurbs instead of full articles. Before you know it, we have people brainwashed and radicalized into the direction they prefer.”

By its very nature, social media activism is “preaching to the choir” as most people simply follow those they agree with. The result is “the predictable formation of echo chambers,” sophomore Taikary Jiang said. “Once you realize this, many posts feel disingenuous and a shallow attempt for people to fit in more than anything else.”

This desire to fit in is a constant nudge towards uploading similar posts to those you are bombarded by. “Social media activism is just a lot of people feeling compelled by some sort of social pressure… either that or it’s an attempt to make themselves feel good,” sophomore Joshua Schoenman said. “It’s very annoying when it goes as far as to shame others for not participating in the echo chamber.”

Similarly, junior Kayla Kavakeb believes that everyone is “entitled to use their platform for anything they want” but does not “support the pressure that the media puts on influencers to speak on topics that they may not support.” In many cases, social media outrage never materializes or impacts the real world as most people will post something without taking any other measure to create that change.

Inevitably, this process of cudgeling and radicalization leads to “social media activism trending towards divisiveness, blind allegiance and counter productiveness,” junior Shifan He said. “I personally see it far more on the left and have yet to see any ability to actually bring about change.”

Junior Hannah Fishman said that many social media activists have good intentions. However, “it often leaves people satisfied with being a ‘good person’ without them actually impacting the issue at hand.” 

In recent years, social media activism has garnered a relatively negative reputation. Arguably, this reputation is deserved with many activist trends appearing asinine and widespread stories being proven as slanderous misinformation.

For North High’s student body to be truly politically cognizant, we all have an obligation to look into stories and think before reposting. To blindly recite the latest hot button issue is nothing more than self-righteous moral grandstanding and hinders the work of real activists.