Sudan. Refugees. Pride month. Veganism. Climate change. Cancer.
If there is a problem in the world, there is a profile picture dedicated to ending it.
Well, not really. There is a profile pic about it, sure, but those cute filters aren't fixing the planet or helping refugees, no matter what online media users claim.
I get it- we all would like to think we are helping others. It seems the news just gets sadder and sadder every day and it is far too easy to feel helpless against the biggest problems of our time.
Changing your profile picture makes you feel better. It makes us all feel like we are doing something, which in turn lets us feel that the situation might get better because of our actions.
The problem with this is that all it really does is lull us into a false sense of security and often leads people to claim and believe they are doing more than they really are.
This, then, can actually limit how much we do to really help any number of problems and issues.
Take the recent trend of changing your profile image to solid blue in support of the ongoing crisis in Sudan. The idea came out of a desire to raise awareness and resources for Sudanese people caught in an outburst of violence in the country.
On the awareness front, this works only if the other users who see the profile picture choose to do further research.
Unfortunately, that research usually ends with another profile picture and little else. The cycle continues, people think they are educated and active, and the Sudanese people are still caught in violent conflict.
Many of the groups who started the trend have since said they do not have the resources and/or ability to send aid to Sudan as they originally claimed they would.
So, on both fronts, the 'activism' has fallen short for the people who need it most but have given a public image boost to those who participated.
Essentially, plenty of people have benefited from this brand of activism, but few of those people were affected by the issues at hand in the first place. This is problematic on a few levels, but it also shows us that 'activism' is not always very active.
Being active, though, is the key component of activism. It's right there in the name. If you aren't actively trying to affect change in any number of ways, you cannot really consider yourself an activist.
So what can we all do?
Actually research. Do some deep dives into complex issues and then share what you learn. Post links, share genuine fundraisers- yes, finding real fundraisers requires more research.
But hey, if you want to be an activist, you have to be active.
Otherwise, you are just another person with a trendy profile picture and some attention. We need to do better for all the people who actually need the help.
You're Instagram popularity can wait. People dying and in need cannot.