Angelina Jolie and 21st Century Activism

Social Media: Political Tool or Celebrity Playground?


During the height of Black Lives Matter in the summer of 2020, an online campaign began to gain traction. Known as #BlackOutTuesday (and now infamous) it asked users to pay tribute and show solidarity with the victims by not posting for the day, save a single black square with the hashtag BlackLivesMatter. 

While a bold and symbolic message in principle, but in practice disastrous. The use of the hashtag disarmed people from finding out actual information about protests, donation funds or whether or not the police were getting violent at a rally (hint: they were) and filling their feeds with solely black square. 

Furthermore, swirls of questions began to emerge about this square. How did posting a black square help the families of George Floyd or Breonna Taylor? And was it not simply a get out of jail free guard for the swarms of non-activists pretending none of this was happening. 

And further still, can something like social media, something designed to satisfy our ever-shortening attention spans, be used to accomplish political goals or create long-lasting change? 

Enter Angelina Jolie. While best-known for acting and directing, she has served as a Special Envoy for the United Nations Refugee Agency for nearly two decades. Her role involves working with developing nations in aid of women's rights and ensuring their access to education. What Jolie is not known for is her use of social media which mainly exist as marketing tools. Until she set up Instagram. 

Her debut has broken several records, including the milestone of 1.8 million followers in under two hours. But rather than a cheeky throwback pic, a la the cast of Friends, Jolie took the opportunity to raise awareness about the situation in Afghanistan, which threatens the rights and safety of Afghan women and girls. Jolie posted a letter sent by a young girl in which she fears for her education now that the Taliban have seized power yet again. It reads, “again, we have no rights.” 

The post has clocked up 3.5 million likes, which is 3.5 million more who are more aware about the danger that faces women and girls living in Afghanistan. Jolie used the sensation that stirs when celebs join social media to her advantage, and uplifted voices while doing so. What’s more, her resumé precedes her and she’s more than qualified to speak on these issues.  

Angelina Jolie has set a higher bar for the modern celebrity and it’s genuinely refreshing to see. Of course, there will be further criticism that Jolie is engaging in well-timed PR, but she stands alone in her positive efforts in a sea of self-servers desperate to crack the algorithm for virality. 

If you want to learn more about the conflict in Afghanistan or donate, you can visit the Afghan Women's Fund here.


Next Up, Taliban Takeover: What Does This Mean for Afghan Women?