THERE’S a very bad habit I have developed during lockdown and need to ditch as soon as possible: browsing Twitter and Instagram before going to bed, instead of listening to a podcast or reading a book. It has been proven to be very detrimental to the quality of sleep and last Tuesday it definitely didn’t help me to cool down before turning the lights off.

That night as I scrolled on my social media I saw countless empty black squares with no commentary at all. I thought I was clearly missing something as I had no idea what was going on. It was, apparently, a global demonstration of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, which started seven years ago after the killer of Trayvon Martin was acquitted, and which became viral again after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis as a result of police brutality a few days ago.

But instead of the gratitude and relief that I was expecting to feel, what was growing inside of me was deep, unshakable frustration. So y’all caring now, uh? Did it really take this long and this many deaths for people to say: this is everyone’s problem and we can’t remain silent anymore?

Hear me out. I see I’ve started to lose you. You are probably a well-intentioned person. You want to be an ally; chances are you posted that black square on social media on Tuesday. I am sure that you have said, at some point in your life: “I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.” That’s a good start. I am not going to lecture you and tell you that you shouldn’t have done it. But now I am patiently writing about my frustration so that you can understand, and now that I have taken the time to reassure you, please bear with me.

First, let me start with what I hope – because it is the way we should always start – that at this point, as many people who took part in this demonstration of sorts are starting initiatives, taking responsibility and organising for the future. I hope this is the beginning of a journey for as many people as possible. If more start engaging positively and with an open mind with the wealth of illuminating anti-racist content, then maybe we can heal and move forward as a society. That is why the posting of black squares on social media needs to be more than a one-time display of solidarity that will vanish as soon as the next shocking piece of news comes round the corner.

People were meaning well when they posted the image. My friends who did so are without the shadow of a doubt interested in equality even if they are not full-time activists. Them participating in the social media campaign along with millions of people from all over the world makes the issue more mainstream, and I can’t be against that. It means we are talking about it more, and I am all in favour of raising awareness around racism … except if it is only a pretext to discuss whether racism really exists in talk shows with people who glaringly refuse to understand, as is too often the case.

But let’s be real for a minute: the reason why I was frustrated is that only caring publicly about police brutality against black people now that it is all over the news and the internet means that a majority of people have waited until it became more socially palatable to do so. They wouldn’t associate themselves with the cause before, but now the very simple gesture of posting a black square on social media instantly demonstrates that they are very woke, without taking many risks. It’s easy because it doesn’t commit you to anything. So of course, welcome to the anti-racist movement. I’d rather have you on board. But please forgive me and many others for feeling a bit frustrated that you showed up a bit late, and wanting to wait and see if you actually stick around.

Black Lives Matter is not the only movement experiencing performative wokeness. The same happened with #MeToo: you could see famous men posting the hashtag left, right and centre and portraying themselves as allies, only to find out they were precisely the predators that the women using the hashtag were condemning.

They were capitalising on the suffering they were responsible for, and needed to be seen on the right side of the conversation. I’ve seen better allies.

In the past few days, brands illustrated themselves with their lack of shame and self-awareness.

It is hard to be half as indecent as L’Oréal, who used #BlackLivesMatter to promote themselves and were ruthlessly called out by supermodel Munroe Bergdorf.

In 2017, L’Oréal fired her after she spoke out against white supremacy … You wouldn’t think it is a controversial thing to condemn, but L’Oréal seemed to differ from this opinion at the time.

This explains a lot about my issue with social media. It is great to spread awareness, connect with people and causes I wouldn’t be able to connect with in real life. I am learning so much every single day from people from all walks of life with whom I would never have the opportunity to meet in real life.

BUT my policy, generally, is to abstain from participating unless I have something to say of value. To do otherwise, I feel, would mean that I am making it about my ego and my guilt, therefore taking the space of someone who should be heard instead of me.

Why would anyone care in my window-dressing operation? I’d rather share what other people are saying, and not add to the noise. Don’t assume the reason is because I don’t care, because I do. But I would feel like an imposter if I gave the impression that I truly was invested in a cause I have only just got acquainted with. Also, I only became interested because it is mainstream and it guarantees I will get the woke badge. It is impossible to be part of every single cause, and God knows there are so many worth fighting for. You choose what you are going to devolve your energy to, because your energy is limited. I save mine for those issues to which I can bring a proper contribution.

So really, I am not deterring anyone from posting what they want on social media. I am just generally sceptical of that kind of activism: bar the demonstration, what does it really achieve?

The #MeToo movement helped liberate the voices of many women who broke the silence around the violence they experienced, and it certainly helped me to find the strength to speak out about my experience of sexual assault.

The more survivors tell their stories, the more will follow. However, I am nowhere near convinced that posting an empty black square, giving each other a pat on the back and carrying on with our normal lives will do any of this.

Undeniably, there is greater understanding of issues surrounding racism, and that is thanks to the work of activists, academics, public personalities and everyday people who are still being castigated for telling unpleasant truths.

You don’t need to look any further than the reactions in the Scottish press regarding the Resisting Whiteness anti-racist conference that took place in Edinburgh last year (I am not even going to bother explaining what it is, the information is out there if you are really interested in finding out more).

Remember the sheer amount of vitriol against Jackie Kay when she said at the Edinburgh Book Festival, last August: “I don’t think Scotland has changed enough as far as race goes.”? Remember Sheku Bayoh? In France, too, singer Camelia Jordana was publicly shamed by the interior minister for saying on television: “There are thousands of people who don’t feel safe in front of a police officer, and I am one of them.” Assa Traoré is still waiting for answers four years after her brother Adama died while police arrested him, and 80,000 people demonstrated on June 2 to demand justice.

If you did post the black square, ditch the woke badge. You know it is not a goal. It only matters if you carry through.