Instagram steps up – by stepping down for #blackouttuesday

Anya Shah June 3, 2020
Instagram steps up – by stepping down for #blackouttuesday

We’ve all witnessed the harrowing footage of George Floyd’s unjustly death. It has forced us to acknowledge racism is still real and requires urgent action. Silence means complicity in the crime.

Social media sites are naturally serving as a platform to spread awareness, voice anger and encourage change. They’re often the first place people go to in times of turmoil. With more than one billion active users on Instagram a month, it’s not hard to see why.

What is #blackouttuesday?

Yesterday (2 June 2020), the only posts you saw on Instagram were a black square with the hashtag #blackouttuesday. Compared with a usually colourful feed filled with pictures of beaches and avocados, it’s a sombre, powerful image.

Sharing on social media makes us feel we’ve done our bit. Past turbulence has seen more than 70 million posts under the 2015 #prayforparis hashtag. More recently, the #stayathome hashtag on Instagram has been used on more than 37 million posts so far.

This time it’s different, though. The movement simply can’t stay virtual. The problem won’t be solved by sharing a post or liking a tweet. Social media can act as a catalyst for change, but only if we can carry the momentum from cyberspace into the real world.

Photo by LOGAN WEAVER on Unsplash

Times are changing

So far, it appears to be working. Posts are no longer an empty gesture. “I will speak up in real life” reads one. “I know this is not enough” is another. The circulation of real information about useful books to read, where to donate and how to join a protest mark this movement as different.

Social media has realised its capabilities, and now it’s realising its limits. Suspending content on Instagram for an entire day is powerful because it affects all users, whether they choose to show support or not.

By relieving our attention from the usual bombardment of content we are turned inwards. This grants us the time to reflect we so desperately need and also outwards to the real world, shattering any ignorance that remains.

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A 22-year-old Durham graduate, currently on furlough leave as a junior copywriter at Immediate Media. Looking for ways to stay creative during this time, as well as learn new skills.