With the advent of the Internet, activism has been integral in the shaping of younger generations. With the revitalization of movements for change, comes distortions of the original message, through performative activism.
Performative activism exists within every cause; while many prime examples are in regards to social issues, those involving administrative policies, especially in schools and the government, are widespread as well.
Though this form of activism allows various issues to be brought to light, it serves more as a means of saving face than actually benefiting a movement as people attempt to distance themselves as much as possible from trending, controversial topics. Deep-rooted change does not transpire overnight, and in the long run, a few months of reposts has no prolonged effect.
The results are evident in many aspects of our day-to-day lives. From the planned photoshoots of celebrities at Black Lives Matter protests to the surface-level repost of infographics plastered all over Instagram, the gravitation towards such activism tactics have only increased, and the benefits are exceedingly limited. The black square for #blackouttuesday gradually disappeared as public interest in the movement died down; company social media profiles return to normal almost immediately following the end of pride month.
At Diamond Bar High School, this tactic can be seen with the protest of unfair dress code regulations. Recently, students have utilized such tactics to protest the school’s policy on appropriate attire on campus, printing flyers to urge fellow classmates to express concerns over this allegedly problematic matter but not taking any immediate action themselves. For true change to be made, petitions and actual calls to action must be introduced; without this, such protests are essentially meaningless.
Because of its raging popularity, progressive movements have even started to become capitalized by public figures and corporations, which jeopardizes one of the essential ways that the general public can criticize topics. Because of the prioritizing of the economy by world leaders, many prevalent issues are often ignored, with capitalistic ventures for economic profit taking precedence over social wrongs. In the past, activism was a way to gain social recognition for such issues, which in turn instigated actions for change. Nowadays, the spreading of social awareness also benefits those who hinder such social progress to begin with, with their utilization of methods such as planned rally photoshoots and production of goods exhibiting the message of trending movements to gain credibility from the public to maximize empathy and profits.
Through the nature of media, younger generations are living through an unprecedented time in history where freedom of speech is often blurred with sharing questionable opinions and impractical solutions to nonessential matters.
This fixed mindset has had an adverse effect on the public’s view of activism. Instead of widespread support for solutions that are largely beneficial, the current prevalence of movements leaves many concerned over the motivations of the demonstrations rather than the issues themselves.
Interest in championing change is always welcomed in our society. However, given the dwindling number of committed advocates, the causes being fought for will suffer the repercussions of massive influxes in momentary support.