The Disconnect of “Instagram Infographic” Activism

Sohana Sahni, Staff Writer

In the rise of the digital age and social media, the younger generation has begun approaching activism in a different way. Rather than the usual local grassroots activism, which has paved the way through history, many social justice movements have been able to gain national traction through the use of social media platforms. The most popular and recognizable technique utilized by these social media activists is the Instagram “infographic”.

In the digital age, many advocates for social justice reform utilize infographics as a way to spread awareness for issues efficiently and easily. An infographic is a visual representation of data, information, or knowledge created to inform readers efficiently and clearly. Despite their downfalls, infographics do have their initial benefits. Infographics often present an aesthetic, digestible way to share information about recent events. These images can encompass a plethora of topics: ranging from politics and social justice reform to climate issues. 

The common spread of these infographics is often the same in concept. First, a social media account, usually one with a large following, creates a small, aesthetically pleasing infographic about an issue plaguing the world. As with most social media, people begin to like and share this image. Eventually, the information within this graphic spreads around social media, and more and more people are exposed to the issue at hand. The main issues around these Instagram infographics are their lack of correct information, tendency to oversimplify, and frequency to spark “performative activism”.

The largest issue regarding these infographics lies in the reliability of the information being shared. Most graphics follow the motto that “less is more” and include an extremely small amount of actual information. This causes most of the information to be oversimplified, and this simplification can completely destroy the necessary nuance that understanding these ideas requires. 

Accompanied with this oversimplification, the reliability of the information being spread can also be called into question. Most information shared can be untrue and biased. As most activists create these images with a certain bias or passion guiding them, they cannot be taken as straightforward news. While this isn’t always the case and some infographics can be unbiased ways to gather information, a majority of them are made with a certain preconceived opinion in mind and this can alter the way people present their information, whether intentional or not. 

This bias can be harmful to teenagers, who are often the main consumers of this information. To those who grew up in the digital age, it is easy to take the initial information given as truth and not conduct any additional research. This misinformation can have a damaging effect on impressionable youth growing up in a digital age, as often we don’t take into account the possibility that the information being given to us is untrue.

The Instagram infographic has also given rise to a new brand of “performative activism”. 

Performative activism can be described as, “activism that is done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause”. 

The development of these Instagram infographics hasn’t been recent; infographics have been around a long time, but their rise to popularity can be seen most notably in the outrage following George Floyd’s death in late May of 2020. Amidst the following Black Lives Matter movement, people began posting infographics on how to be anti-racist, how to make changes which rebuke systemic racism, and more resources on how to support the cause. While most people sharing these images truly cared about the cause and were trying to make a difference, others simply posted to seem “woke” or truly passionate about equality. 

Therein lies the problem with reposting infographics: it allows people to feel a fake sense of superiority in their own activism. Rather than actually fighting for the cause they support, people opt to repost something online and forget about it. 

Common historical activism like going to protests, learning the history of the issues people face today, and donating has been replaced by clicking a button to repost an infographic. 

While these graphics aren’t all bad and some can offer details on how to get involved in real life through local protests and learning the history of the advocacy movement, a majority don’t teach people how to actually make an effect in real life. Instead, people who view themselves as advocates for a cause should look for local ways to get involved which truly make a difference.