Nawal Qadir & Khaula Saad
Disclaimer: every article expressed in our opinions section is that of the writer.
For the past several days, cities across the nation (and the world) have broken out in protests. This outburst of marches, sit-ins, and even riots have been in response to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer.
Alongside these protests, activists have been taking to social media, using their platforms as a way to inform the masses and connect with those at the protest. From infographics about police brutality to quotes by prominent Black activists to information about how to stay safe at protests, social media has become the ultimate space for people to show their solidarity with the movement.
But the use of social media as an informative platform hasn’t been limited to activists, as it usually is. Floyd’s murder has pulled back the curtains on a system of injustice that no one can ignore. And nearly no one has. For some, social media is now what it always has been: a place to document their lives as usual. The only problem is that life hasn’t exactly been “usual” and while posting a selfie may seem harmless, it’s actually pretty problematic.
In a time where systemic brutality is being countered (and people are putting themselves in harm’s way to do so), a beach day selfie or an #ootd seem painfully apathetic. It’s a signal that you’ve chosen to delegitimize the movement and, in turn, ignore the suffering of an entire community of people, even if said selfie is sandwiched between two infographics (which is dangerously close to saying that a movement attempting to end racial inequality is nothing more than an Instagram trend).
While it’s no one’s place to tell you what to or not to post, sometimes you have to read the room. Black lives have been ripped away by the police for centuries now, and people are being brutalized in the streets for trying to call an end to the murdering. The president is inciting violence against these citizens via his Twitter account, going so far as to threaten military action in several states. If the current events aren’t making you mindful of what you post, you’re not paying attention.
The atmosphere following George Floyd’s murder is one America has not seen since the ‘60s. Black Lives Matter protests have been held in all 50 states of America. Scrolling through any social media outlet will put you face-to-face with countless videos of police officers attacking unarmed citizens protesting in the streets. There are injustices being brought to light in ways never before possible. Currently, social media is being used as a platform to spread information about what’s happening on the streets and what people can do to help make a change. And even if you don’t want to hear it, now’s not the time to post that #throwbackthursday.
While social media definitely has its pitfalls, it can be an extremely powerful tool to unite the public. We’re seeing that happen everyday amid these protests. People are learning more about the systemic abuses Black people endure throughout their lives and are becoming more motivated to speak up about them. If you take a moment to consider all of the information that’s being posted online, you probably will find yourself feeling the same way.
Instagram and other social media platforms are meant to serve as a way for you to express yourself and your ideas. And while no one can force you to stop that, it can be beneficial to take this as a moment of reflection. Consider what’s going on around you and what’s at stake. Black people witnessing members of their community being murdered on tape are also scrolling past your selfies. At the absolute very least, it’s disrespectful.
Instagram will always be there for you to post your workout selfies, a snap of your morning coffee, and your quarantine-makeup-looks. So for right now, hold off for a bit. Take the initiative to learn about everything that’s going on. Take part in the activism. You’ll be glad you did.