Celebs Are Boycotting Instagram. Has Anyone Noticed?
For all the power they wield, celebrities continue to miss when it comes to collective action in pursuit of social justice. Over the past few months, as the world has gone through unprecedented crisis after unprecedented crisis, celebrities have sung John Lennon’s “Imagine” in a video for no one and posted black squares on Instagram for Black Lives Matter and black-and-white photos vaguely in honor of women. While their latest stunt, in which at least 30 celebrities are boycotting Facebook and Instagram on Wednesday in response to its mishandling of hate speech and misinformation, is well-intentioned, the tactics have failed to make any tangible mark.
It’s encouraging that such a large number of celebrities are aware of the dangers of the rampant misinformation on Facebook and Instagram, especially ahead of the election, but a one-day absence from social media fails to accomplish anything substantial. The demands set out by #StopHateForProfit, which include forbidding violent and hateful groups and any events that encourage violence, are necessary. But it’s unclear what pressure this actually puts on Facebook. Unlike the NBA, who went on indefinite strike in August in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin and subsequently secured concessions like stadiums being turned into polling stations, celebrities have already said they’ll come back tomorrow. That’s not an effective boycott.
Instagram’s algorithm, which is not chronological, is part of the problem. Amy Schumer is participating in the freeze, but just an hour ago I was served a post she technically posted yesterday. Had I not read about the boycott, I wouldn’t have even known she took the day off.
And while 30-plus celebrities is not insignificant, it’s not enough to make a noticeable difference—especially when those boycotting include a number of people I didn’t even know had Instagram profiles, like Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander. While Kim Kardashian, the most high-profile of the bunch, is not posting, her sister, Kourtney, did earlier this afternoon.
Otherwise, it was business as usual. Brands were posting their products, online content creators were sharing their days, my friends still documented their meals on Instagram Stories.
A noticeable difference would require a real sacrifice. Kim Kardashian leaves for a day? Her audience can deal with it. Forever? Now Instagram’s listening. But given that Keeping Up With The Kardashians is coming to an end, social media is Kardashian’s main tool for sustaining her brand.
I’d say she, and everyone else, should just move to some place totally new like TikTok—but things aren’t going great over there, either.