By Pramila Baisya
An essay covering how revolution looks in a social media era and discovering the adverse harm specifically when it comes to understanding infographics.
When you’re scrolling through Instagram and you see new human rights issues beginning to trend through a steady stream of infographics, do you as a consumer ever stop to wonder why? This week all hands are on deck regarding #FreePalestine and #FreeSheikhJarrah, despite the oppression of Palestinian people going back decades. Before this, last week India’s oxygen shortage amid their second wave was trending, before that protests in Colombia, before that Black Lives Matter and the list goes on. Let’s not forget that U.S. troops still have a presence in Afghanistan (which was an unnecessary war).
“The point I want to highlight is all of these struggles are connected to one another, and it is critical to assess the connections of oppression between them and actively question the imbalances of power.“
The point I want to highlight is all of these struggles are connected to one another, and it is critical to assess the connections of oppression between them and actively question the imbalances of power. They are not separate from one another, and should never be discarded as “last week’s news”. If something such as the oppression of Palestinian people stops trending on Instagram and Twitter, that does not mean the conflict or the trauma of people ends there. More than that people’s lives and the varying degrees of oppression are not trending topics to be consumed. A platform like Instagram has a tendency to conjure the creation of infographics, to sum up very nuanced lives of people into square posts and illustrations. These infographics dehumanize the people it claims to support, making their struggles into concepts.
I have written about infographics and the harm they cause in the past but am looking to shift gears with this piece to assess what it means to support a “trending cause”. When you re-share an infographic to share your solidarity with a marginalized or oppressed group, not only is Instagram capitalizing off your data with this, but it brings attention to you the user instead of the bigger picture which is the people at risk. Why on these platforms do we as users feel a need to express solidarity and empathy, when we should have empathy regardless if we engage on a platform or not? Why is there an urge to express support of a certain group only when it trends and more importantly who are we doing it for? For example, by expressing solidarity for Palestine, or Black Lives Matter through infographics, you are bringing the attention to yourself for validation from your peers who are not of that marginalized group. The sharing and resharing of these don’t help the individuals going through their respective struggles.
“When you re-share an infographic to share your solidarity with a marginalized or oppressed group, not only is Instagram capitalizing off your data with this, but it brings attention to you the user instead of the bigger picture which is the people at risk.”
The problem with social media as yet another tool is that it doesn’t enforce the difficult conversations and bias that we need to address if change truly wants to happen. With infographics on Instagram, the research for people tends to stop there. What fails to happen is understanding individual stories or generational stories, ones that don’t need research of fact to corroborate their experiences. The word “info-graphic” itself indicates that all it will do is present information as if only facts surrounding the conflicts are all we need to know. While these info-graphics are accessible, easy to read, and save you time on gathering information, they cannot be an end all be all to understanding very complex topics. All conflicts may be painted as black and white, that does not mean the effects on people’s lives are black and white.
“What fails to happen is understanding individual stories or generational stories, ones that don’t need research or fact to corroborate their experiences.“
Furthermore, depending on the page you are on a lot of these infographics take a neutral stance, as if removing themselves from the issues altogether. While information needs to be presented accurately, factually that does not mean it has to be presented robotically. Removing empathy from the issue at hand is dangerous because it created a disconnect from the user liking it to the people who are oppressed and marginalized. These infographics are a good start if you need basic facts on a particular topic. However, they will not lead the revolution. The real changes happen outside of a social media platform through mutual aid groups, and mass protests, things that the media would never show. The Revolution will not be televised is a song and spoken word poem by Gil Scott Heron that covers how as individuals we would never see the real revolution if we’re glued to our television. His lyrics still stand true, making me wonder how if the revolution will not be televised why would it likable.
About Pramila Baisya
Pramila Baisya is a 3rd Year Writing student at The New School. She is an editor for the school’s Her Campus Chapter, and interned at Bowery Poetry Club. She currently contributes to Street Art United States. She is also a freelance photographer skilled in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop.
“Hi there I’m Prim! Your friendly neighborhood writer, photographer, and overall film connoisseur! Come along on this journey, I don’t know where it will lead! Enough said I hate writing about myself, enjoy my work!”
Check her writing portfolio: https://pramilabaisya.journoportfolio.com
Fotography website: https://www.primsfotography.com/