Infographics: Performative or Helpful?

Opinion

Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has amassed over one billion active monthly users worldwide. It’s evolved from a platform solely for sharing photos and videos to an informational one as well. Many of the recent features introduced are targeted at relevant societal issues, such as updates about the 2020 election and material on COVID-19.  

A large percentage of Instagram’s most dedicated users are Generation Z and Millennials, known for their connection to technology. After the death of George Floyd in May, teens and young adults began to spread awareness through their most commonly used platform: social media. In recent months, Instagram stories have become the home for posts about LGBTQ+ rights, destigmatizing mental health, the politics of the upcoming election, and more.  

A political infographic by @complex providing information on the role of the USPS in the November election. Photo courtesy of Olivia Reynolds ’22.

Infographics are visual representations of information, often utilizing different fonts, colors, and images, to convey information in an easily digestible format. Perfect for Instagram’s algorithm, they quickly gained popularity across the app. Yet, they’ve still come under fire for their very nature. 

Additionally, the words and images aren’t unique to the individual who is republishing it, allowing them to “check the activist box” without doing any of their own research or formulating their own opinions. It takes under 30 seconds to repost one of these images, and requires little to no original thought.

@_stormae shares an infographic in support of justice for Ahmaud Arbery, a 25 year old Black man who was shot by white men in Georgia while he was out for a jog. Photo courtesy of Olivia Reynolds ’22.

However, the ease of reposting is a double sided coin. Although it doesn’t encourage original thinking, it allows small causes to be recognized globally within weeks by catching the attention of organizations or celebrities with large platforms.

Those with millions of followers aren’t the only users that can make an impact. Many of my friends have anywhere from 500-2,000 people following their account. Crazily, 500 is considered to be on the low end! Instagram has diminished the shock value of such large numbers; 500 followers is more than enough to have an influence. Even if only one or two people read or repost, that number is multiplied exponentially as the information continues to be shared.

Personally, I think infographics can be a great way to spread awareness when coupled with other actions. They advertise different numbers to call, organizations to donate to, and general information about current events that isn’t addressed in school. But unless the users who republish them are reading the information outlined in the thread, it’s pointless. 

Those who post infographics also need to call out their friends, check their own privilege, and educate themselves through other mediums. Infographics are extremely helpful, but they shouldn’t be the only outlet for education and awareness.