Women, Life and Freedom

The draconic influence of social media in trend politics

Matt Shipley (he/him) // Culture & Communities Editor
Freya Emery // Illustrator

Fourteen thousand captives were recommended to be sentenced to death by the Iranian government on October 7th, for the crime of protesting against genocide and gender apartheid.

But, you probably didn’t even know it was happening.

It has only been a couple of weeks since #MahsaAmini and #SayHerName were trending across social media networks. It was impossible to touch Instagram without seeing them. We shared stories, said her name, copy-pasted some pretty words and went about our day-to-day lives.

So why isn’t anything changing?

The short answer is, sharing is not caring. It has happened countless times – the social media train spends a couple weeks in an activism station, whether it be the ongoing conflict in Iran, the ongoing war in Ukraine, the ongoing colonial oppression against Indigenous peoples or anything else, and then it moves on. In a hyper-capitalist society built on trends and interest, with nothing to gain and everything to lose by letting one subject dominate the cultural scape for months – or even weeks at this point – hardly anybody is going to keep caring forever. Eventually, popular support, as well as institutional aid, will peter out.

Funny enough, people know that. The Iranian government knows that. Vladimir Putin knows that. The Canadian government knows that. It’s playing out in gruesome detail in front of us – while Ukrainians continue to fight and die for a country that is rightfully theirs, the Republican Party has promised to withdraw all support in the name of their own country. If they had said that in March, they would have been ridiculed. Shamed. Now, though, it’s hardly an afterthought. Gone are the days when the Western public rallied for years against a common adversary. Why?

Because continued support doesn’t make money. Outrage makes money, but outrage doesn’t last. Totalitarian governments exploit this to the extreme – they know that there is a general distaste towards them from the international community, but it rarely flares into outrage. Once in a blue moon, a trend will go around, and they’ll be on the chopping block, but it will pass. The Iranian government is still carelessly murdering its own citizens, and the hard truth is that, as a whole, the Western world no longer cares. It’s no longer cool to post about Iran, not when it’s more than just a performative costume people can wear to pretend they care.

Because, in essence, that’s what these trends are. They’re performative. They’re driven by a community of people who genuinely care, who truly are willing to fight and donate to make a difference, and amplified by a world of people who read the first sentence of a post, share it and forget about it.

So, I implore you this: don’t stop posting just because it’s not cool. Don’t stop caring because your friends did, or your family did, or your government did. Iran will continue to persecute its citizens until a movement with truly nothing to gain takes over the international community. Ukraine will fall, as will our Indigenous people, as will the world’s climate, unless we are brave enough to put our feet down.

Capitalism will not put its feet down. Neither will our leaders or corporations, who depend on capitalism to maintain power.

It’s up to us.

Say her name.

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