Just weeks before the upcoming presidential elections come to a head, celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Katy Perry and Kim Kardashian participated in yet another social media movement, focusing on eliminating the spread of hate speech, propaganda and misinformation on the ever-present monstrosity of a social media site called Facebook.
The movement, starting the hashtag #StopHateForProfit, called for a massive social media “freeze” on the Sept. 16, where participants would freeze their social media accounts for an entire day to raise awareness around the growing presence of fake and hate-filled news on social media. This sentiment was meant to be impactful in today’s dire times, with activists of all kinds hitting the streets to make their voices heard, receiving a mix of positive and negative responses from anyone with two thumbs and a smartphone. Not only that, but the presidential election coming up this Nov. requires voters who are well-educated and informed on this era’s biggest issues, in order to vote for the person best fit to traverse the obstacles of present day. The need for a well-educated populace and the presence of fake news is in direct contrast to the fact that everyone who goes on social media these days is constantly bombarded with either false information or cleverly designed misinformation meant to turn people against each other.
But honestly, how effective could this campaign be? At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans have already expressed their dissatisfaction with Gal Gadot’s “Imagine” video and other attempts by celebrities to throw their two cents into the ring and then bow out, simply using their platforms to say that they stand “with the people” without actually doing something substantial for the causes they represent. People didn’t need—or want—a soothing serenade of 1970’s John Lennon to understand that COVID-19 was a big issue, requiring unity of the masses. We get it. Likewise, we don’t need celebrities to quit posting trivial things to their social media pages for a measly 24 hours to know that hate is toxic, racism is bad and misinformation is rampant in every news outlet available.
Too much of today’s politics is full of people “doing their part” by pressing a button, spreading lies across the internet, many times unintentionally. Too much of the voting public is full of narrow-minded people who only get their news from [insert news source here], people who only vote for who their friends or family are voting for or people who honestly believe that scrolling through their Twitter feeds will give them enough of the unbiased truth to choose a new leader for the free world. Society shouldn’t need to rely on a pop-up fact-checking banner to think twice about a piece of information before committing it to heart.
To have a society built by the people, run by the people and that benefits the people, the people have to do a bit of the legwork for themselves. We are not some mindless public that can be manipulated like puppets by social media stars and politicians; we all have the ability to question everything. Instead of scrolling through an endless number of black squares, we can push ourselves to read articles about real problems affecting real people. To make real change in the world, people need to think for themselves and form their own opinions that also differ from those around them. We can’t be afraid to make a splash in our social circles, lest we become trapped in echo chambers that segregate us from the rest of society. Perhaps the easiest thing that one can do to keep one’s mind from turning rotten from the endless flow of propaganda and hate (perhaps, Kim Kardashian did have a point in this) is to turn off “social” media, and to actually get to know the people the world is trying to turn you against.