Nicole Mailhoit / Gavel Media

Education Over Validation in Social Media

Whether you’ve been keeping up with the news, searching for Buzzfeed quizzes to tell you what type of pasta noodle you are, or scrolling through the Instagram explore page, I am sure you have heard about the recent devastation regarding the Amazon rainforest. This latest environmental crisis has been heavily covered by news outlets as it is seen as tangible evidence of the devastation of climate change.

Among the panicked news headlines, I couldn’t help but notice a strange trend. I was continually seeing social media influencers, and even everyday users, commenting and posting about the news with melodramatic captions that read things like: “1 like equals 1 tree” or “1 retweet is 1 bucket of water." While I’m all for political activism, I’m not sure performative political activism is quite as honorable.

Social media users have taken environmental crises, such as the current fires in the Amazon or even global human rights violations, and used them to boost their online presence. Making unsubstantiated claims like promising to plant 50 trees for 50 likes is not only unrealistic but also highly disrespectful to the gravity of the situation.

There is a fine line that must be drawn when it comes to political activism within the sphere of social media. On one hand, social media is an excellent tool to inspire support for a cause or publicize problems that may otherwise go unnoticed. However, our feeds have become overrun with people posting and commenting about the news only to create the facade that they are politically informed. I don’t mean to shame people who post about something they care about. I just ask you to shy away from posting buzzworthy captions when you have no intentions to follow up your post with legitimate action.

This is why saying “1 like equals 1 bucket of water” is so ridiculous. Are you really planning on traveling to the rainforest and counting out specific buckets of water to pour onto some trees? Not only do I not think people are actually planning to do this, but even if they did, it wouldn’t actually do anything to help! In fact, the flight alone would probably do more harm than those buckets of water could ever undo.

If you care deeply about a cause, try actually taking action. If you are concerned about the rainforest, donate to a charity that may actually plant trees, change your purchasing habits to support environmentally friendly manufacturing practices, or even change the food you eat.

Still feeling the desire to broadcast something on social media? Before you hit post, take a minute to think about your motives. Are you dying to post because you want other people to know that you donated to charity so you can be validated? Try taking a step back from the “pics or it didn’t happen” trope and figure out if you actually feel a personal desire to help that cause. It’s okay if you don’t.

Are you wanting to seem up-to-date on the latest political drama? Rather than faking it, find a news source and read up before you argue your way through a debate in the comments section. In my opinion, there is honestly nothing wrong with not reading the news. Just don’t pretend that you do. Even I can admit, most of the time it is pretty depressing.

Bottom line, before following the trend to post about a global crisis, give yourself just one extra second to really think about it. In general, I would say if you don't feel comfortable having a five minute in-person conversation about the topic, maybe a dramatic call-to-action Instagram story is not the best idea.

I recently saw a makeup artist painting her face to look like the burning Amazon. Half of her face was brown with red flames and the other was green and filled with trees. While I have no connection to this woman personally, I would put money on the fact that she merely read a headline about the Amazon and then decided to go on with her clickbait makeup tutorial. Please don’t be Anonymous Makeup Artist Woman! Do your research or don’t post!

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