Performative Activism


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Performative activism is the empty promise to fight alongside affected groups in cases of social injustice.

This year, social justice issues have become increasingly prevalent across the nation. Thus, causing an influx of protests and people paying close attention as these cases of social injustice play out. Social media has played a big role in how people are raising awareness for these social issues. However, not everyone has pure intentions when it comes to raising awareness.

With more issues coming to light all over the world, people are coming up with several ways to educate others on what is going on. Whether it be through a TikTok or a thread on Twitter, there are people who are just doing it to save face. English, debate, and NHS sponsor, Amberly Reynolds, sees performative activism as a way for people to make themselves look better.

“Performative activism is when you see people who will post about issues on social media or go out to try and promote a particular issue and it doesn’t align with their behavior. They wind up doing it for attention or for personal gain rather than to the issue itself. You never know if someone is being performative unless you know them personally which is another thing to consider,” stated Reynolds.

As people use social media to raise awareness, a lot of people have gained a lot of popularity through it and have used raising awareness as a way to get themselves more followers. With the new popularity, they are able to become like other influencers. Psychology teacher and coach, August Lahue, feels like some people might wind up supporting things that aren’t right all for the sake of popularity.

“It’s kind of a deal where you might have to go against some of the things you believe in or support things that aren’t really right. Especially in terms of religion and things like that, people just want to be able to hear what they want,” said Lahue.

Considering the idea of performative activism, some people may be posting things they know little about from small infographics or from things they’ve heard from other people. The effects of performative activism can sprout from many different things. AP government and US government teacher, Amanda Mitchell, feels like as long as the person is genuine and is knowledgeable on the subject, they are doing the right thing.

“I think the biggest thing is if the person is genuine about the topic. They may not understand the issues that they’re protesting for or posting to bring awareness about. However, if they’ve done the research, I think it could actually help since it brings awareness to those around that person,” stated Mitchell.

Social media plays a big role in the lives of a lot of people and it’s almost become like a job to many people, according to AP US history teacher, Ryan White. As time goes on, younger generations make their way onto social media and put their attention onto getting popular through several various platforms. White feels like social media will negatively affect younger generations.

“We see younger and younger kids are hopping onto social media. Instagram, Snapchat, things like that and I think it’s really going to damage those social connections that you get from face to face interactions. I think that by taking away those social interactions, that’s going to create more social issues, since we don’t know how to talk to each other and discuss our problems,” stated White.

Despite people knowing the negative effects of performative activism, others who see those promote the issues don’t know if it’s performative or not. With the amount of support an issue receives, the more help those involved will receive from other citizens and the government. Senior, Lauren Hinson, feels like without the support of everyone, performative or not, helps the issue at the end of the day.

“Performative activism can insight government action because of the seemingly large amount of support it has. However once the ‘trendiness’ of the movement dies down, then the government support it had goes away as well, which is why it is important to continue to push an activist effort for as long and as much as possible,” stated Hinson.

Social media plays a large influence over many issues today, like BLM and several others. However, there are many people who raise awareness for these issues only to save face or gain popularity. In the eyes of bystanders and people involved in those issues, it seems that any publicity is good publicity.