Social Justice as an Aesthetic

Since early 2020 (and one could argue even earlier) there has been an increased focus in general on social justice, and in particular, the ability of governments, companies, and individuals to make positive change to address both current societal issues and issues stemming from the past with respect to the treatment, visibility, and rights of minorities in the United States. It is no coincidence that messages of these ideas spread like wildfire throughout social media, where sharing ideas, even with the threat of a minor controversy, is extremely convenient and easy. These messages and pro-social justice accounts are not new, and groups dedicated to maintaining these accounts and propagating their messages have always existed, but the ability to spread messages quickly for free is a new phenomenon, and the results of this newfound ability are not always positive. With any movement there comes a risk of that movement becoming little more than a vehicle for some to display their own virtue as a subtle form of bragging to others.

Many of us most likely witnessed the way in which this materialized, often from the same people, and sometimes from people whom we did not expect. Perhaps you even saw an example of such a post today. These posts are often from pages with questionable owners and ethically dubious business models often using stolen or reused content.

An example of the format of these popular consumable posts Source:

The problems with these pages however is not that they come from ethically questionable sources. The fact that they are designed so well and have a simple, modern look makes them appeal to young people, who tend to be more interested in maintaining an “aesthetic,” or a consistent look that allows their pages to be more presentable.

The tragedy of such a trend is that the guides and posts often shared are widely accessible by many people, easy to read, and pleasant on the eyes, so they can be used as vehicles for spreading awareness, but the way in which people abuse a simple sharing of them for the selfish purpose of appearing “woke” or appearing to be compassionate or virtuous is narcissistic at best and nefarious at worst.


@feminist: a popular feminism-themed Instagram page promoting gender issues was recently discovered to be run exclusively by two white men as an online business. Source:

You may be tempted to share some of these posts on your social media page, but it is important to investigate the sources and determine whether they are truly attempting to spread awareness of a lesser-known issue or they are simply producing another consumable product to be sold.

Before sharing ask yourself, am I giving my friends valuable information, am I honestly sharing my enthusiasm for solving these social problems through action, am I providing material support (donations and physical aid), or am I simply using these quick messages to pad my social credit score?

Sharing without truly helping seems harmless, but without making any further attempts to contribute to a movement, you are doing little to support it; instead, you are unintentionally diluting a message through reckless repetition.

More information:

Vox: How social justice slideshows took over Instagram

The Do-Gooder Ploy: Social justice as a business model

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