Mikaela Rabizadeh editor
Since when did Earth Day become an excuse to post your bikini pictures from Bora Bora?
The one day a year reserved for global ecological awareness, Earth Day continues the legacy first established on April 22, 1970, when millions participated in rallies and marches in protest against industrial development. Now, going on 50 years later, instead of flooding the streets with picket signs, the American generation instead floods eachothers’ Instagram feeds with Google images of waterfalls.
Spreading awareness is a good thing, but when awareness comes in the shape of a selfie, that’s where the line gets fuzzy. It’s a selfie; the subject of that photo is your face, not the tree in the background and not the bird flying in the back, either. I’m a big fan of First Amendment rights (people can and will post whatever they want), but masquerading as an environmentalist for the sake of Insta-fame is problematic. Don’t claim to be spreading awareness for Earth Day with your selfie. It’s a cute picture; save it for the next Throwback Thursday.
This isn’t the only instance in which people take advantage of a holiday, special occasion or national event to spruce up their social media content. Let’s not forget the spam of posts after the November 2015 Paris attacks. The tragic events in Paris conveniently made for the perfect excuse for Instagrammers to post their family photos from Paris the preceding summer. No post was truly complete without #PrayforParis in the caption to unsuccessfully and ironically counterbalance the happy faces in the photo.
If you look good in a photo, then by all means post it, show the world. But, don’t use Earth Day or a tragic bombing as an empty excuse to post that photo. These hollow posts serve no purpose, and in the case of Earth day, do nothing to help solve our planet’s problems.
There are respectable ways to use social media to promote environmental action. Not every Instagram user is guilty of exploiting Earth Day’s national holiday status to collect likes on their vacation photos. Environmentalists alike took to Instagram and Twitter to shed light on awe-inspiring statistics. More importantly, many used their social media following as a platform to discuss climate action and encourage environment-friendly personal goals. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio expressed the need for a “Global Deal for Nature,” calling on his followers to sign a petition supporting the restoration of nature. On the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s (Prince Harry and Meghan Markle) official Instagram page, an informational post was shared addressing climate change, endangered wildlife and the harm of plastic in our oceans.
There is a right way to spread awareness on social media. It just doesn’t include a bikini or a generic Instagram filter.
Young climate activists across the world are taking a stand against climate inaction. Thousands of European students took to the streets to demand change. British teenagers picketed and marched in Parliament Square, causing a traffic-jam on the busy London roads. Outside the Ministry of Ecology in Paris, students called onto the French government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. American students can learn from the protests in Europe. We are no different than they are in age or ability. Actions speak louder than posts.