Opinion: Coerced support results in performative activism

Pressuring people into supporting a cause is ineffective, especially as it pertains to issues of war and politics
Genuine support for any cause should come from a place of understanding, says writer Grinje Randa Bringi.

Can the pressure to adopt a political stance lead to real change, or does it merely result in superficial support?

Engaging in discussions, whether for or against a cause, should be open to those who are either capable of or choose to speak on the matter, rather than coercing individuals into adopting a stance.

Being compelled to voice an opinion does not equate to genuine support but rather is a performative action driven by peer pressure.

Advancements in technology have significantly improved access to information. The rise of social media platforms has heightened global awareness of various issues, shifting the landscape of how information is consumed and trusted.

This shift has led to a decline in reliance on legacy media sources, as a growing number of individuals now place their trust in the information disseminated through social networks.

That being said, it’s important to note that not all people are well-informed about global issues or politics, nor are they equipped to discuss said topics.

In recent years, we’ve seen an increase in public pressure to support or take a stance on the war in Ukraine, announce if you’re vaccinated or protest against the occupation in Palestine.

In an article published in the McMaster Undergraduate Journal of Psychology in October 2022, Amira Abdalla found that the fear of cancel culture leads to an increase in online activism.

“More often, those who engage in online activism treat it as a trend and fail to enact real and positive changes in regard to social causes,” said Abdalla.

When people are pressured to take a stand, their support may become performative. It’s a case of going along with the crowd to avoid scrutiny, which doesn’t truly help the cause.

However, public pressure towards for-profit corporations and political entities is necessary as they often finance or are responsible for the atrocities of the world and hold the power to assert change.

As seen during the Black Lives Matter protests and the Free Palestine protests, boycotting brands is impactful. However, it’s not sufficient to just pressure brands to acknowledge social issues without a detailed plan of action.

Melissa Jiménez, digital content coordinator at King’s College, shares that organizations have realized that making empty statements can damage their reputation a necessary plan of action is required.

“Voicing support without meaningful actions to back it up is not wise to do from a reputational standpoint,” said Jiménez. “It causes more harm to the reputation. People are more savvy when it comes to the brands that they support.”

Genuine support for any cause should come from a place of understanding, a personal connection to its values and a voluntary decision to advocate for change.

Superficial support might look good in terms of public perception, but it doesn’t build a strong foundation of advocates who can push for sustainable change.

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