Yesterday Instagram feeds turned into endless scrolls of black squares, as people observed "Blackout Tuesday" -- a day promoted to mourn and call for policy change in the wake of George Floyd's death.
Organizations, brands and individuals posted solemn messages featuring stark black backgrounds, sometimes tagging the posts with #BlackLivesMatter.
But it quickly drew controversy for two reasons: Critics argued the use of the hashtag in these posts clogged up critical channels of information on social media, and that it was being used as a form of performative self-promotion in place of more substantial action.
Clogging up channels: Hashtags on Twitter and Instagram are a common way for people to monitor a situation or interest. And since people have been including the #BlackLivesMatter tag on their black square posts, the actual protests have been erased from social media feeds.
"When you check the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, it's no longer videos, helpful information, resources, documentation of the injustice, it's rows of black screens," music artist Kehlani explained on her Instagram story.
What does it actually do? Some argued that instead of posting a black square -- which doesn't contribute much to the actual conversation surrounding racial injustice or the ongoing protests -- allies of the movement could simply observe a virtual day of silence and pause posting images that are unrelated to Black Lives Matter.
This could redirect attention away from the poster and toward the protests, and open up much-needed space for the voices of black activists and advocates.
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