There was a time when the Instagram logo was a vintage brown camera, and most of what we put on there were pictures that were heavy on contrast and light on intent.
With pictures of peace signs and Converse shoes readily available, Instagram has always been a place to share excitement. However, since its inception in 2010, there have been instances where the platform has shown its capacity to bring about massive change. Take the recent case of ‘Beyoncé Sharma Jaayegi’, where the outrage over racist and colourist lyrics caused the song to be corrected to ‘Duniya Sharma Jaayegi’. Instagram has (mostly) been an ally in the hopes of being better humans than we ever were before.
As the year 2020 progresses, we look back at how unkind the year has been — to some, more than others. Quarantine and lockdown-induced mental health difficulties and the fear of the Coronavirus were interspersed with large social movements woven around Dalit Lives Matter, Hathras rape case, and the crumbling economy in India. The West faced its fair share with Black Lives Matter and raging forest fires. In the compulsion of remaining confined to our homes, much of the revolution was transferred from streets to screens.
In 2017, when Instagram introduced the carousel option, we used this album-like option to share (and, err... also over-share) moments from our lives and products of our talents and capabilities. Feeding our have photos-will share urge, Instagram retained the update, as we see it today. Now, it is a tool for online activism that is not only immensely creative but also powerful.
‘Instagraphics’ or ‘PowerPoint activism’, as it has come to be known, is the practice of doubling the 10-image space as slides of informative content to increase awareness about a particular topic. It’s hard to miss the cohesively designed and carefully curated pockets of activism — appealing to look at and even more intriguing to read and learn from. It begs one question, however —how did Instagram, a picture-heavy app, take to this format so well?
The Will To Be Better & The Hurry To Get There
Let’s think of this as a reworked version of the 6x6 rule they taught us in school — no more than six points in a slide with a maximum of six words. The short attention span friendly format coupled with the fact that the youth is politically and socially driven hits the nail on the head.
A survey carried out by The Irregular Labs for Gen Z individuals in 7 countries (the United States, United Kingdom/Germany, India, China, Brazil, and South Africa) found that “75% of respondents said being politically or socially engaged is very important to their identity.” Additionally, the attention span of Millenials and Gen Z ranges between 8 and 12 seconds.
So, when the question arose of using social media, Instagram particularly, to revolutionise activism by taking it online, the choice of using succinct text over attractive backgrounds seemed like a no-brainer. As you can tell by the look of your Instagram feed, the easy format shows no signs of slowing down.
Demand & Supply Of Simple, Crisp Information
According to the World Economic Forum, there were approximately 44 zettabytes of data in the world at the beginning of 2020 (a zettabyte is a large enough number to have 21 zeroes behind it).
Again, owing to our characteristic of wanting to understand things in the easiest and most convenient way possible, we leave it up to the creator to efficiently squeeze a large amount of information into 10 squares. In a way, it is like creating a small amount of content out of a large amount of content, that adds to the existing data in the world, and is also the most consumer-friendly way of doing it. And what are we, in 2020, if not hunting for everything consumer-friendly?
It is for the same reason that we can consider these Instagraphics as a sort of pop culture with-the-times version of listicles. When we study for a test, we make sure to jot down the important points and elaborate on them if need be - this phenomenon is no different. At the end of the day, you would much rather read “Here are 10 ways to be more sustainable at home,” rather than scour through multiple searches online (sometimes even the second page of Google Search!).
Easy To Create, Easier To Consume
For avid users of Instagram, it is easy to differentiate between a regular post from an activist slideshow post — the distinct bold introductory typeface and the non-distractive colours and illustrations give it away.
While some create remarkable supporting visuals to grab the attention of Instagram users (like Our Dirty Underwear), on the most part, such content design is fairly easy to recreate. Letting the focus fall on its content rather than its aesthetic value, those advocating for causes of choice may spend the bulk of their time in researching and consolidating, rather than the design itself.
Activism-minded creators, no matter their political preferences, are able to hop on the trend to put their points across in a manner that is not multiple posts, not a singular text-heavy slide and definitely not an immediate eye-sore — features that sit very well with Instagram users.
The Choice Of (Mis)Information
Undoubtedly, the nature of social media is such that it gives free will to its users to post content of their choice, of course, under certain (not always reasonable) restrictions. And so, when there was a choice to be able to shift on-ground activism online in a time of physical uncertainty and unsafety, the Instagram user base didn’t think twice. Now, anyone can be an activist.
A ‘How to be an LGBTQIA+ ally’ post made by a member of a queer community would rightfully hold a lot more importance in comparison to a queer-friendly organisation, but the slideshow format allows both entities to present their thoughts in a similar manner. On the other hand, since users are so used to seeing such posts, they may even mistake inaccurate information, opinions or insights to be true or legitimate.
The existence of Instagram in a politically charged time and space contributes heavily to the proliferation of PowerPoint activism, but just as easily invites the spread of misinformation. The format has somehow come to denote content that is presumably accurate – if someone painstakingly goes through the effort to curate it, it must be correct, right? Absolutely not – if anything, it increases the possibility of consumers believing incorrect information more readily, especially since 63% of Gen Z said they primarily inform themselves about social and political issues through social media channels according to The Irregular Labs survey.
Activism, very evidently, is not what it used to be. Its basic principle of campaigning for social or political change remains unchanged, but the numbered ways of doing it were put on the path of extinction as soon as social media was born. The PowerPoint activism, slideshow activism or Instagraphics are just a part of a revolution that is far from over.
Now is the time that the cope for technology and innovation is endless. What helps push it further is the fact that younger generations are unafraid of letting creativity play a part in their process. There was a time when creating content online seemed like a bizarre idea, but having proved the power it holds, the future seems slightly more hopeful.
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