Instagram, alongside many forms of social media, has been a leader in advocating for a variety of causes. One of the most prominent is saving the environment. Popular accounts headed by the world’s leading organizations and people, such as the United Nations, CNN climate, NASA climate change, Greta Thunberg, Alex Honnold, and Vanessa Nakate have millions of followers. Even the tag, #climate, has been attached to over 2 million posts on Instagram alone. All of these accounts can also be found on Twitter, a popular form of communication and socializing through online threads.
Although the random post on our feed could help us know a little more about an approaching hurricane or flood, there are also a few cons to this large platform. There are opportunities to spread false information that could reach a wide audience of people, and studies in the past have found associations with the trust people put in false posts due to internal biases. For example, many energy companies advertise themselves as “clean” in hundreds of advertisements and even pay influencers to do so. To our benefit, many posts containing misinformation are taken down by the platform themselves, and others are recognized by new algorithms. It is also important that we are aware about how we approach news that pertains to health, the environment, and supposedly impactful developments.
On the bright side, the posts we see regarding the environment serve as a catalyst to make us aware of our other actions. It is a great way for us to find cheaper and environmentally friendly ways to grow food, recycle plastic waste, and reduce our carbon footprint. Through the form of “life hacks”, people find that they are able to reuse cardboard boxes as book stands, yogurt containers as pots, and re-melt their candles. It is also important to understand how useful the result of a “hack” may be. Many channels on YouTube that suggest shortcuts seem to create more waste by producing items that serve little purpose but consume many resources, such as turning a coin into a jewelry ring.
Social media has been a double-edged sword regarding fashion. Some accounts promote ways to upcycle old clothes, such as wearing shirts as skirts and altering seams to be larger. They can also suggest ways to build a versatile wardrobe made of quality pieces that will last. Yet, fashion-oriented accounts can also spread fast trends. In just the past few years, we have seen patched jeans, platform boots, and ruffled black dresses turn “chuegy” within months. The sudden rise and fall of trends gives fuel to fast fashion, piling into landfills, 10% of carbon emissions, and chemical leaching.
While social media can be a platform for millions to learn more, it can also suggest trends and news that falsely inform or alter people’s perceptions of their immediate needs. It’s important to assess news we see and treat the tools we have with responsibility, as even upcoming trends can turn to millions of dollars in impact.