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The Spectre of Infographics

The Perverse of the Social Media Infographic

What do horrific things such as the war in Ukraine, the earthquake in Morocco, the Iranian crackdown on unveiled women, and every social movement or tragic event have in common? They all fuel a very specific type of person’s need for attention: the infographics reposter. If you are at all present on social media, or have been, you have encountered at least one of these people: their Instagram stories are a succession of twenty different activist posts supporting x, denouncing y, or ‘spreading awareness’ of z, to the point where you wonder how on Earth they find any time for themselves while being so passionate about helping absolutely everyone.

The posts they share are in and of themselves rather problematic. They’re designed by a certain group of people to grab attention and transmit a certain message — they’re centred on a photo with bold text on top, an eye-catching statistic, etc. But the key issue is that they will push forwards a partial truth, erasing the complexity of situations and often using convenient facts. If all wars could be boiled down to a ten-slide Instagram post, would they not all be solved? More than that, the one-sidedness of such posts can be absolutely shocking. Infographics are yet another way through which misinformation — whether because false, incomplete, misleading, or taken out of context — can be spread. The ‘infographics people’, in their immense kindness and good-will, become at best the relays of skewed and incomplete information, or at worst the useful idiots of militant groups.

But what is most bothersome is the clear narcissism to all this. The ‘infographics people’ you know are not just posting for the poor souls affected by whatever crisis, they’re perversely posting for themselves. With a single tap on the ‘post to story’ button, you can yourself, with minimum effort, become a sort of Mother Theresa or Nelson Mandela caring for the world’s needy and fighting for all the just causes — it’s just that easy. No longer do you need to actually do something concrete to be a force for good, all you have to do is repost.

The ‘infographics people’ aren’t truly doing anything for the cause they supposedly care about, they just want to be seen to be doing something, to be seen to be caring. There's no such thing as a selfless act: in this case, the selfishness comes from wanting to be perceived as selfless. You would find that a crushing majority of people who repost and raise awareness, though they will die on the hill explaining that they really do want to make a difference, are thinking of themselves more than those they’re defending. If they truly cared about causes, they would join associations, do charity work, collect or donate funds if they’re able, actively lobby their elected representatives, go to marches — or literally just get involved past the insignificant and useless act of reposting. Infographics people are not activists or ‘social justice warriors’: their pseudo-activism is just another facet of social media pushing people to create and tailor their public images, in a large-scale phenomenon of navel-gazing and self-interest.

I don’t deny the fact that the causes relayed are often legitimate, and that social media is a useful means through which to raise awareness. What is sad is seeing how legitimate causes are being used for people to feel, and look, good. This has always existed, charity has often been a tool for image-crafting: but in the past to seem like you were a charitable person you had to get involved in some way. Now, you click a button and feel like you’ve done your part — you haven’t. To all the infographic sharers out there, either show genuine and active involvement in a cause, or don’t act as if you care more than you do. You’re not helping anyone but yourself by reposting.

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