Jordan Ori

This past year, social media has been a tense place of political discourse. With issues such as reproductive rights, the Trump trial, the continued destruction in Gaza, the violent removal of student protestors from their own campuses and the upcoming presidential election, it can seem as if everyone is on edge all the time. While political conflicts are discussed on all social media platforms, one of the most popular outlets for sharing resources is Instagram’s story feature. In the past, I have shared my political opinions on Instagram, but these past few months, I have refrained despite feeling intensely pressured. In previous political climates, I felt comfortable that I could post content without upsetting anyone, but this past year, the internet has felt particularly divisive.

I have witnessed people share posts declaring that “silence is violence” and “we will remember your silence,” essentially stating that if you are not political on social media, you are complacent and ignorant. Posts guilt people into mindlessly resharing content, much like the chainmail content that flourished in the 2000s and 2010s. This pressure to post results in a hostile environment online where the blame for social injustice is deflected onto your peers.

I am not one of those people who thinks politics have no place in social media. My qualms are instead with the pressure to post political content out of fear that people will think you are ignorant. Social media posts and campaigns have done a notable job of getting young people into politics and helping grassroots organizations get their feet off the ground. For instance, back in September 2023, pop superstar Taylor Swift shared a short message on Instagram encouraging her fans to register to vote, which resulted in 35,000 new registrations with just one post. Additionally, many social justice movements have relied on social media to spread awareness and reach the masses like never before. One example of this is the Black Lives Matter Movement, which has existed since 2013 but saw an influx of supporters like never before in 2020, largely due to the sharing of Black Lives Matter hashtags on social media following the death of George Floyd. According to the Pew Research Center, “44 million #BlackLivesMatter tweets from nearly 10 million distinct users currently exist on Twitter today,” and half of all those existing tweets were posted between May and September of 2020. However, with so many people sharing and reposting, social media can spread false information and, therefore, become a tool of division. Politics can, therefore, use social media as an outlet, but they are not meant to be its entire existence.

Instead of posting just to show your followers that you are “woke,” I believe that you absolutely should not post about a political issue unless you are fully educated about it or know you are sharing a post from somebody who is. It is better to refrain from posting at all than to be accidentally posting propaganda or false information. The same people who have been complaining about people not speaking up about social justice online are often the same ones posting incredibly tone-deaf takes.

I think that because social media is such a huge part of Gen Z’s lives, we often forget that not everyone relies on it. While spreading awareness is crucial, and social media is an easy way to do so, someone refraining from posting political content does not mean that they do not care or that they are not taking action. They could be attending rallies or protests, lobbying, writing letters to political officials, donating and more. So even if you think someone does not care, they might actually be doing something far more effective than just clicking “add to story.”

Ultimately, you do not know what others are doing behind their screens, and reposting an infographic does not make you morally superior. Of course, there’s reason to be frustrated by those who fail to grasp the significance of staying informed and view engaging in political discourse as tedious. Still, at the same time, it is important not to assume that every individual who chooses not to post about social issues is of this school of thought. Instead of attacking each other for being “silent,” we should redirect that anger onto politicians, lawmakers and other people in power who can do more than just spread awareness.

Jordan Ori is an undeclared sophomore. 

Views expressed in the opinions pages represent the opinions of the columnists. The only piece that represents the views of the Pipe Dream Editorial Board is the Staff Editorial.