For many Instagram users scrolling through their feed on Tuesday, it seemed as if nearly everyone decided to post the same picture: a plain black box. While many of these blackout boxes were posted without a caption, others used the hashtag, “Black Lives Matter.”
While there’s a scheduled blackout for the music industry planned for June 2, many Instagram users were unaware that the trend would also be applied to social media, which caused some confusion, especially when it came to using “#BlackLivesMatter” in the caption.
— Rubén (@QueerXiChisme) June 2, 2020
To show support amid the protests following the death of George Floyd, Instagram users were told to share the black boxes with the hashtag, “Blackout Tuesday,” “Black Out Day 2020” or no hashtag at all. Organizers specifically wanted posters to avoid the “Black Lives Matter” hashtag in order to prevent that hashtag, which is used to share information and resources, from being overrun by black boxes.
IF YOU ARE PARTICIPATING IN #BlackOutTuesday DO NOT. I REPEAT DO NOT. USE ANY BLM TAGS. THESE POSTS ARE BLOCKING USEFUL INFORMATION ON THE MOVEMENT AND PROTESTS. PLEASE LET EVERYONE ELSE KNOW TOO. THIS IS BECOMING HARMFUL AND DEFEATING THE PURPOSE OF THIS DAY. pic.twitter.com/qPyLJHXCbg
— lyss • no justice no peace (@txttospeech) June 2, 2020
With the “Black Lives Matter” hashtag, Instagram users could easily click on the hashtag and get the most recent information on protest locations and the latest updates from supporters on the ground in cities across America. However, with blackout pictures using the hashtag, useful information was substituted with a sea of black.
Reminder: If you are going to post a picture for #BlackOutTuesday, do not use the hashtag “Black Lives Matter”. Information is continuously being spread through that hashtag! Promote them separately. pic.twitter.com/inpT2NJm5h
— Geeks of Color #BlackLivesMatter (@GeeksOfColor) June 2, 2020
As one user online explained, “My initial thought is it feels dangerous… because once you click on the BLM hashtag you’re directed to an overflow of black images, instead of other more useful content people could look at for information.”
Black Out Tuesday Might’ve Been Confused With ‘The Show Must Be Paused’ Campaign
— theshowmustbepaused (@pausetheshow) June 1, 2020
With users online wondering what started the blackout trend on Instagram, journalist Ivi Ani explained on Twitter, “People are posting black screens for blackout Tuesday and using the black lives matter hashtag instead of the original hashtag #TheShowMustBePaused- the initiative started by 2 Black women working in the music industry to disrupt the industry. BLM tag wasn’t initially used.”
Jamila Thomas, senior director of marketing at Atlantic Records, and Brianna Agyemang, a former Atlantic Records employee, created this call to action. Thomas wrote in a statement to music industry colleagues on Instagram on Friday, “Your black executives, artists, managers, staff, colleagues are drained, traumatized, hurt, scared, and angry. I don’t want to sit on your Zoom calls talking about the Black artists who are making you so much money if you fail to address what’s happening to Black people right now.”
Since Thomas and Agyeman’s announcement, numerous major records labels have pledged to join the movement on Tuesday. Columbia records shared on Instagram, “We stand together with the Black community against all forms of racism, bigotry, and violence. Now, more than ever we must use our voices to speak up and challenge the injustices all around us.”
What’s Supposed to Happen on Blackout Tuesday?
People are choosing to observe the blackout on June 2 in different ways. The organizers of “The Show Must Be Paused” suggested that the music industry “not conduct business as usual” and take the time to reflect on ways to support the black community.
Interscope Records announced via Instagram that they would not be releasing any new music during the first week of June and suggested to their followers to text “FLOYD” to 55156 to voice opinions against police violence and/or donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, as well as many other foundations.
As for people posting black boxes on Instagram, the goal is the same. Users online are hoping if there’s nothing but a sea of black pictures on Instagram, it will force people to take the time they spend on social media to think about how they can help black people, check out Color of Change or read up on the ACLU.