It would make sense to find yourself speechless as the nation’s fury boils over following the death of George Floyd. It’s understandable to feel speechless—but not to be silent. When you’re at a loss for words, one of the simplest (yet still proactive) ways to help a movement like Black Lives Matter is signal boosting on social media.
For white allies wrestling with what to say, signal boosting on social media is how to “pass the mic,” says Maya Siegel, social media manager of Gen Z Girl Gang. As an activist who speaks to all different facets of intersectional feminism on a wide platform, signal boosting definitely has its place: it can uplift the most effective voices and shed light on the truth of a situation.
“When it comes to movements, when you’re an ally, it’s really important that you don’t have the microphone if you’re not the ones being affected,” she says. “You should uplift somebody else’s voice, the people who are doing the work versus your own opinion. That’s really important and something that some people forget.”
Signal boosting, then, is a simple way to give power and reach to important causes. And while social media activism is not enough to topple the systemic pillars of racial injustice, it’s a good starting point. Below, Siegel shares advice on how to signal boost in an impactful, respectful way.
How to propel a movement by signal boosting on social media
1. Credit the original author or artist when possible
“It’s important to always credit the person whether it be an artist, a leader or anyone else, definitely you have to credit their work,” says Siegel. “Ideally, you also should ask them before you even repost this and you should message them: ‘Can I post this? Would this be okay to repost?'”
And this is especially essential if you’re trying to share someone’s resistance artwork or words. You need to be crystal clear that you’re not stealing someone’s work for your own, and a good part of that involves not only tagging the artist, but crediting them in the caption.
2. Consider how you’re sharing protest videos
This one might be known, but Siegel reinforces the idea that when you’re sharing protest videos or imagery, it’s responsible to block out the faces as “it’s definitely easier for authority to track them that way, and that doesn’t help.”
3. Scrap insensitive hashtags
While hashtags aren’t an inherent evil, use your best judgement when using them. For example, now is not the time to repost an Instagram outlining the necessary gear to bring to a protest with #LiveLaughLove.
“This is a very serious topic, and it’s important not to detract from that,” says Siegel. It doesn’t mean that hashtags are outright being boycotted, but mass-tagging in such a careless way puts an insincere and inappropriate tone to whatever’s being shared.
“It’s fine for the people who are doing the work and talking, who maybe need more support and more people,” she says. “But I think if you’re an ally, you don’t need the hashtag.”
5. If you have a platform (or even if you don’t), utilize links
“This also goes for anybody who has a blue check and can post links in their stories,” says Siegel. “And I think that’s really helpful if you post a link to a fundraiser or for an organization while you’re posting on your story. I think that’s powerful.”
If you’re not blue-check verified, however, that doesn’t mean you can’t point people in a clickable direction. Siegel says that adding a link in your bio is always an option if you want to fortify an important voice or source.
6. uplift oppressed voices (and know when to leave out your own experience)
Again, a good guideline across the board is knowing when to pass the mic, and sometimes letting something speak for itself. Sure, we’re all going through something right now and it’s okay to feel frightened, anxious, impacted. But in a situation like this especially, you want to keep the focus off how this is impacting YOU.
Though it’s a delicate balancing act, sometimes the most important part of speaking up is also knowing when to listen. So keep the commentary to a minimum, don’t make the dialogue about yourself, and always, always, always do your best to share the power, but not the burden.
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