Performing for views


When the Minnesota police killed George Floyd in May 2020, it sparked outrage across the nation. People were itching to do something, and many took to social media to voice their anger. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter made waves throughout the internet, symbolizing the movement’s unifying goal of furthering racial equality in the United States. People protested, and together, they enacted change.  

Social media can be used as a tool for progress. Because of its widespread reach, movements can quickly gain traction and reach people all around the world. This online platform can spur change and cause people to advocate for social issues they care about by bringing awareness to various issues. However, many feel pressured to post about different social issues without understanding the cause; this is known as performative activism.  

“In my experience, performative activism functions only as an ego boost for people to feel as if they are doing something. Although many say it has no effect, I believe it often takes away from real issues and distorts people’s view of current issues,” Priscilla Dice, senior, said.   

Performative activism occurs when someone engages in activism to increase their personal gain or popularity, rather than showing genuine support for the issue. Social media users can hide behind a screen, thus concealing their true intent behind sharing a widely circulated post. These actions, however, do more harm than good. Because of this inauthenticity, movements are simply seen as social media trends, with people caring more about making their Instagram highlights aesthetic instead of bringing actual awareness to the issues at hand. 

“I think activism is important because it helps our community, but when it is performative, it actually does more harm than good, because people do not really care about what they post,” Satya Prabhuram, sophomore, said. 

This form of activism occurs around the globe daily. One example of this is with the recent controversy surrounding climate change protestors throwing a can of tomato soup on a painting by Van Gogh has made headlines worldwide. Many are claiming that these acts are examples of performative activism because attacking these renowned art pieces will not combat environmental issues. However, others defend the attack by stating that the goal was to draw attention to the disastrous effects of climate change.  

“I do see a lot of my peers mainly contain their political engagement to social media. And I think it is really harmful. I think it is almost a form of performative activism,” a high school student said in an article on Flatland. 

Being involved in activism has proved to better one’s community and society. However, it is important to stay authentic through it all, and advocate for issues out of one’s own desire to create change.