Now Reading
The Rise of Performative (Hashtag) Activism and How It Helped Literally Nobody

The Rise of Performative (Hashtag) Activism and How It Helped Literally Nobody

You know that doomsday clock? And how we’ve been the closest to doom compared to any other time in history since they started in 1947? And that we’ve been 100 seconds to midnight since 2020? Well, unfortunately this week we just might be a little closer than before.

Although Europe is desperate to avoid WW3, so much so that they’ve subtext-edly decided to sacrifice Ukraine in the name of world peace (only slightly hypocritical), Ukraine is still at this very moment being bombarded with shells, and being literally modern-day conquered by an irrational, greedy dictator known as Vladimir Putin. And the worst thing is: it’s not even about wealth, or oil, or farming – it’s just about power. Putin firmly believed that he is the God of what was the Soviet Union, and the Lord can giveth, and the Lord can taketh away.

A good friend of mine is Ukrainian, and just to show you how absolutely mind-boggling it is that Ukraine is suddenly being taken over: my friend runs a health clinic in both Switzerland and Ukraine. Lately, the company has been re-doing the Ukrainian clinic because it has been doing so well. Today, that state-of-the-art clinic is being used as a shelter for people like you and me, to shield against the bombs being targeted at civilian buildings. The medics who work at the clinic are now medics on the front line, patching up fighters. She does not know what her clinic will look like a day, a week, a month from now; whether they still own the building, or will be able to do business in a country that may no longer be their own country in the future.  

People around the world are horrified. And the one good thing about travesty is that it brings people together – the European Union has never been so conjoined as they are today.

With people being horrified and world travesty, comes activism – and here is where I draw suspicion.

In a world that’s increasingly digital, and where your digital social footprint counts for a lot – we feel the need to put our best face forward. That means looking good, being funny, seeming happy, and caring about the right things. But, like most of social media – it’s not real life.

For those of you who aren’t effected by racism every day – remember Black Lives Matter? Remember when your entire Instagram feed was black in solidarity against racism and the systems that are built upon these prejudices?

Well, actually I didn’t post a black square. Why? It’s not because I don’t support the power of black people, and condemn the blights they fight against every day. It’s because posting a black square on my Instagram does not help the Black Lives Matter movement at all. All posting a black square does, is serve my ego to tell myself superficially that I have helped the cause – without actually helping the cause in the slightest.

Posting the Ukrainian flag on your Instagram is only important if you’re actually doing something to support it. What makes a difference? Donating, protesting, signing petitions, and even more so: volunteering.

Posting the Ukrainian flag and being a keyboard warrior on your Instagram stories without doing any of those things is false. It does not help Ukraine at all. Civilians are still going to be bombed even if you post the Ukrainian flag; civilians are still homeless and struggling for food and water even if you share your solidarity. You wearing Ukrainian colours to dinner with your friends does not help the cause – this is called performative activism.

Also called slacktivism, or hashtag activism, performative activism is “activism done to increase one’s social capital rather than because of one’s devotion to a cause. It is often associated with surface-level activism.”

Clap For Carers was another performative activist movement in the UK – banging pots and pans together every Friday night at 6pm is not going to increase wages for straggling NHS workers who are risking their lives every day to keep you healthy. It is not going to recruit more nurses or doctors into the NHS to relieve the over-worked employees. Yes, perhaps if rarely a nurse is home by 6pm during the middle of a pandemic and they hear their neighbourhood cheering for them, it will bring a smile to their face – but will it change their life? No, sir. They will still be overworked, underpaid, and risking their lives to do what needs to be done, with little reward other than the cacophony on a Friday while it’s fashionable to do so. NHS workers are still overworked and underpaid, yet nobody is bringing out their drumkit to the backyard on Fridays anymore. It hasn’t changed anything. All it did, was make you feel better for being part of a movement, when really you didn’t do anything at all.

See Also

Ukraine does not need your hope and prayers; it needs your home if you live in a neighbouring country, your car to cross the border, your money to feed their bodies and save a loved one. It needs you to stand up for democracy, to complain to your MP’s, to protest on Regent Street, to kick up a fuss. If we don’t stand up against imperialist rule – literally conquering other countries for the hell of it – what do we stand for? What’s next for Putin if we’re going to let him take Ukraine?

Please donate to:

Disasters Emergency Committee

The UN Refugee Agency

The International Committee of the Red Cross

Revived Soldiers Ukraine