As public figures become more prominent in student’s lives, we should review their impact on environmentalism

Arya Pinnamaneni

The 21st century many  social issues and reforms have surfaced. Public figures, from billionaires to actors, have spoken about these issues and taken a stance on them. However, with the incorporation of social media, their involvement may be a detriment to social reform. 

When public figures or celebrities address social issues in the media, many social issues become temporary trends. Social media is built to hold your attention, allowing viewers to switch between whatever they find most interesting. 

Although there are some successful social media advocates such as Leonardo DiCaprio,  most public figures fall short when it comes to activism.

Simply posting about a social issue to build awareness has oversaturated social media with that issue, giving it much exposure momentarily. However, the value of the social issue is simply associated with the celebrity endorsing it. Once the celebrity moves onto a new fad, the issue loses its relevance despite the many people who are still affected by it, and the issue eventually becomes irrelevant in the public eye. Viewers soon get tired of interacting and move on. It becomes a microtrend not too different from the trends of fast fashion. 

Celebrity posting overshadows the advocates’ voices  within these movements who are more educated and experienced on current social issues. Due to the celebrities’ larger sphere of influence, it becomes hard to find the voices that matter among all the noise. This only furthers the savior narrative of someone who is infinitely more privileged acting as the main speaker for an issue, which ignores the impact of those readily involved. 

This is especially true with celebrity environmental activism. Climate change and the environment are hot topics right now, with so many young people becoming increasingly worried about the future of their climate. Celebrities often have a wide influence, especially over a young audience which influences the popular culture arena. The influence of this group of people means celebrities need to cater to them, often by showcasing a certain “care” for the environment.

Kent Fujita

However, the use of such activism, purely for fame purposes, established a narrative of “performative activism.” People get farther away from the root of the issue, and more misinformation is spread through high-status figures who may not be completely educated on climate change issues, but do have a wide platform. 

If celebrities or public figures would like to support a social issue they should first educate themselves on it. If they then post on social media they should do so over the course of a long time rather than momentarily this will cement the issue as a long-standing one that needs reform, rather than a momentary trend.

As a viewer you should be aware of celebrities posting about social issues and firstly educate yourself. As well as finding more credible voices on the subject and hearing what they have to say. In doing so this helps the longevity of social issues and increases their relevance in the public eye.