Instagram activism can be an entry point to real-world engagement

The reason Instagram advocacy can work, according to Palm, is because you meet young people where they already are: online. “Maybe your congressman isn’t following you on Instagram, but it’s about educating people,” he explains. “It’s one thing for me to go on my [Instagram] the story and be like, “This bill is horrible, okay?” I’m screaming into the void. Advocacy on Instagram is good when it doesn’t start and stop on Instagram.

Noelle, who has requested that her last name not be released for confidentiality reasons, works in an industry where she cannot attend protests if she is to keep her job. Last summer, as millions took to the streets to protest the treatment of black Americans, Noelle felt helpless. To deal with this sentiment, she started posting on Instagram. Then, she took her involvement a step further and began soliciting donations for organizations such as Campaign Zero, No New Jails, and Innocence Project.

Throughout the summer, says Noelle, her posts inspired her subscribers to donate around $ 3,000, which she kept track of in a spreadsheet. “It’s important to really put our money where our mouth is and to go beyond a quick social media post,” she says. “But everyone has to start somewhere. Maybe sharing this social media post in their Instagram Story is a first step for someone on their journey as an ally or activist.

Noelle says her “waking journey” was heavily influenced by social media. She was in her freshman year in college when Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, pushing the Black Lives Matter movement to the forefront of American politics. Noelle followed the events via Twitter as civil unrest erupted after Brown’s death and the subsequent acquittal of the officer who shot her. These days on Twitter have shaped his political outlook. “I wouldn’t be who I am today without the online activism of others back then,” says Noelle.

Schultz, who is part of the team behind VerifyThis, says that while she fights misinformation online, she has hope. “People who want to get involved and raise awareness – at the grassroots – are helpful,” she says. But, she adds, viewing activism as a trend can be dangerous. “It’s this weird mix of wanting to do good, but they’re just sharing or re-sharing something aesthetic. So these posts that we are seeing are made … with a beautiful graphic design and these accounts have no source. Most of the time, you don’t even know who is managing the account. So for people unfamiliar with the news, it’s beautiful and has a great photo and what looks to be statistics based. ”

Schultz says she understands the desire to share beautiful things, but the top priority of the VerifyThis team is to be transparent about where they are sourced and where information is coming from. VerifyThis readers can even submit their own claims which will then be verified against rigorous journalistic standards. Schultz says she’s overwhelmed by the amount of news and misinformation on Instagram, but tackles each piece one by one, checking the truths and debunking the lies.