This summer a common feature Instagram trends covering current events have risen to an unprecedented level.
Whether this covered George Floyd’s death, the situation in Yemen, Lebanon, Turkey or Belarus, Instagram users took on news coverings to their own hands through their stories, using threads usually titled “Let’s talk about …”. This has been an incredible opportunity for people who do not normally follow the news to get a daily dosage of a world update through their daily use of social media. Such threads also put complex issues into brief and concise summaries. This helped raise awareness on topics that were not widely covered on mainstream media, as well as to raise awareness on ways that users could help movements. The platform was used to spread fundraising pages, resources and news updates through a chain reaction of sharing similar posts. I cannot stress the importance of this – a mainstream platform was used to share stories other than our food, travels, gyms, it was used to spread awareness on topics that, objectively speaking, are of imminent importance.
As great as this all sounds, it didn’t last. Each area covered by threads would be shared on Instagram by users for an average of a week, if not just a day, and would later disappear and turn back to a basic Instagram story. This is why I call these stories “Instagram trends.” The social pressure that came from these stories created a short-term, superficial illusion of allyship, which in a way defeated the entire purpose of raising awareness in the first place. It was an interesting phenomenon to see, people sharing educational posts for 5 days, then giving up, then posting again and then giving up again. There have been very low levels of consistency, while others were alienated from the concept of spreading awareness through social media altogether – but they worked behind the scenes instead.
Whenever a new story popped up, users used their platform to call for lasting change – long term consequences – yet, very few of them actually reflected that on their social media. Once people stopped sharing stories, many followed and the momentum that was created behind a certain area ended. Very few people followed their own advice and the online movement for current event awareness was hushed.
So, what is wrong with these Instagram trends?
Well, they defeat their own purpose of long-term change and the spread of awareness on current events. The superficial allyship created from this also, essentially. undermines the importance of movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement or the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. I think this became the most obvious when black and white pictures of women spammed our feed with the hashtag challenge accepted – a “challenge” initially created to remember Pınar Gültekin who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in Turkey. This sparked a public outcry and an attempt to raise awareness on the rise in domestic violence and the lack of legislation supporting women in Turkey (once again) through threads shared on Instagram. This lasted approximately two days, and the conversation was forgotten, but the problem has not been magically solved.
Therefore, another question to ponder on is this: is my (inconsistent) posting on social media an indication of my privilege? Is my ability to be inconsistent about the news I share on my social media part of the problem? We are given the choice to ignore an event when it makes us feel uncomfortable but later decide to be humanitarians when a new thread on world hunger pops up. But this should not really be a choice, and this is why Instagram trends are dangerous… This should be a permanent state of mind, not just a superficial show we throw for our followers on our social media.
Credit must be given to the few who have stuck around and who are posting threads on their stories on how to continue helping, keeping us, all updated on current events every day. This is consistency and this is what we need. Posting on social media is a great first start, but regularity is what is needed for long-term change. Calling for a lasting revolution for a week will not do the trick.