“Defined as activism that is done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause.”
Performative activism has become more popular in recent years, mainly due to the increased use of social media. Sharing certain posts, using hashtags, and changing profile pictures have become incredibly trendy. Fundamentally, social media platforms can be powerful tools for organizing and spreading information, helping to amplify the voices and stories of marginalized groups, and bringing attention to issues that may not have received mainstream media coverage. However, with performative activism, these platforms can be a distraction from the organizing, planning, and participating in real-world actions that can have tangible impact. Clicking a re-share button offers an easy method of support, but also takes away the commitment necessary to take significant actions. Raising awareness about a cause on social media can be a good way to get people to learn about social issues, such as discrimination, and engage many people in conversation. However, raising awareness alone is not enough to bring real change.
While there are many individuals who genuinely care about and actively work to address social issues, there are also those who use the disguise of social consciousness for personal gain or to build a favorable reputation—especially in environments such as digital platforms, schools, universities, and the workplace, where individuals are concerned with how they are perceived by others. It is important to note that while there is nothing inherently wrong with expressing support for a cause on social media, it is crucial to make sure that it’s a part of a larger, meaningful effort, and not the only form of engagement.
On the other hand, the consistent flow of information and the pressure to be constantly engaged with the news can also lead to feelings of burnout, fatigue, and helplessness in those engaging, making them completely disregard posts regarding social movements.
Being stuck in both extremes can be dangerous when it comes to creating a genuine commitment to minority cultures, and in recognizing and honouring their contributions, struggles, and experiences throughout history. Performative activism can truly hold us back from acknowledging the past justly and from working towards a more equitable future. Let us not allow performative activism to detract from the true purpose of Black History Month. Let us strive to remember the perseverance and contributions of those who came before us as they deserve.
The Medium strives to be a place that moves far past performativity, using our platform to create tangible change and uplift your voices. Without you, The Medium would not be here. Take this space to be open and accepting. To be a place to stand on what you believe in. To stand on what matters most. To make your voice heard.