As the world shifts into a realm of ardent political engagement, something that is not at all new to those who've known that for 400+ years #BlackLives systemically haven't #Mattered to the powers that be, we see the usual waves of social media participation from the masses. From the trending slacktivisms of petition signing and #BlackOutTuesday, to the corporate and celebrity efforts of addressing their silence with "we've been trying to find the words..." social media has raised a new and distinct question for many users navigating online socialization: how do I keep up my usual presence and online persona but avoid being called out for having moved on?
Simply put, the conflict is, "Yes, we support the movement, the ideals, the REVOLUTION, but my feed aesthetic is mirror pics... where is the balance?"
I've been thinking about this question as I scroll through Instagram posts and stories of educational Juneteenth graphics paralleled by beach pics (Florida has opened up its beaches...Global Pandemic?) and the usual share of selfies. The difference between selfie posts before May 25th, 2020 (Rest in Peace, George Floyd) and those after, is the sense that support of the various initiatives to #AbolishthePolice and seek justice for victims of racism and police brutality that have gained tremendous online momentum since the murder of Floyd, must be justified and mirrored by your current media presence and engagement. On top of that, the sense of guilt or shame in posting something which may be irrelevant to the social revolution is somehow band-aided by a hashtag or a link in one's bio. This conflict to find a balance between your content production and your solidarity begs attention to a concept I think of as "disclaimer activism," which frames social media users' efforts to remain a part of the movement, without jeopardizing aesthetically pleasing or "on-brand" posting habits, as another passive act in the grand scheme of political mobilization.
Disclaimer Activism: /disˈklāmər/ • /ˈaktəˌvizəm/
Relieving oneself of the responsibility of active allyship and guilt or discomfort when posting selfies, brunch, sunset pics, or anything considered irrelevant to the pressing political conversation, by adding a link to a petition or tagging @BlackLivesMatter to the post.
Intentions in this phenomenon are often reflective of an adjacency to the conversation. It connotes a solidarity and understanding of the movement, but not a submergence in its urgency.
But, these social media efforts are not frivolous. A link to resources, a petition, a link to find your representatives, a hashtag to raise awareness, a guide to protesting safely, or tagging a local black-owned coffee shop, are all useful, valid, and necessary tools towards building a network of active support at our fingertips. These methods are particularly useful at a time when stepping outside our front door is a health risk not many are able to take.
If you are to take anything from this text, I wish for it to be a motivation to self-reflect on your individual responsibilities and an understanding of the potential of social media to effectively provoke a durable resistance to the forces of oppression. Keep posting your selfies, you don't need to feel bad for being human and enjoying some praise. Keep fighting your fight, be authentic in your support regardless of the optics. Power to the people, if you can't go out and shout it to the streets, shout it to your reps over the phone (everyone should do that though!). But please, do remember that the revolution will in fact NOT be televised!
Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells