On Wednesday, Instagram users scrolling through their feed might have noticed that people they follow have started posting simple black boxes. No filters, no editing … just a completely black square. While there doesn’t appear to be a common hashtag linking all of these updates together, it looks like that these posts are reactions to the election results. People’s captions for the pictures appear to vary, some writing long paragraphs about their disappointment that Hillary Clinton lost the presidential race and others with no words at all. This Instagram trend illustrates how people are processing the political news and sharing their feelings on social media in a semi-abstract way.
Jonathan Shia, a 29-year-old writer in New York, Instagrammed a black box soon after Donald Trump’s victory speech.
“I posted a black box on Instagram because I didn’t think any image could properly express what I was feeling,” Shia tells Inverse. “I kept the caption simple, but I’ve seen a lot of people posting quite long ones, and it’s the first time I’ve seen so many people using words on Instagram instead of the image. Perhaps an image feels almost frivolous in a way at this time.”
And people all over have been doing similarly, creating almost a blackout effect on the image-based social media network.
The black boxes beginning to appear on users’ feeds are starkly different from the sort of pictures popular just 24 hours prior on Election Day. People were sharing selfies and photos of them with their “Just Voted” stickers or at the polls.
“I don’t know a single person I can confirm voted for Trump so I think the black box is reflective of the sadness we feel about this election result,” Shia says. “Everyone is still processing everything and it feels to me at least almost inappropriate to post the usual selfie or whatnot, so I guess the response is similar to what you would see after a major disaster.”
Social media takeovers like this are common when large cultural events happen. Recently, people from all over were checking-in to Standing Rock, North Dakota, on Facebook because they thought they were helping distract police enforcement from protestors. In early 2015, people of color held #BlackOutDay where they posted selfies as a means of empowerment.
While most of the black boxes the day after Election Day appear to be on Instagram, the trend has started to trickle to other social networks like Facebook.
“I actually hadn’t seen anyone else post one yet when I posted mine soon after Trump’s victory speech but I’ve been seeing them a lot in the hours since so I guess it’s something that is resonating with a lot of people. I think it’s a mix of resignation and sorrow,” Shia says.