I have heard the term “slacktivism” a few times before taking it up in EC&I 831 this week. However, I hadn’t really thought much about it until now.
Techopedia states, “Slacktivism combines the words slacker and activist to refer to simple measures used to support an issue or social cause involving virtually no effort on the part of participants”.
Some say that slacktivism can have an impact on global social issues.
In The Death of Slacktivism Gilian Branstetter states that “2015 has proven that the Internet is more than an accessory to the real-world actions that change demands—it’s now a proven way to make it happen.” Abby Rosmarin states in I Get It: You Don’t Like Slacktivism. Now Shut Up. Only Don’t that slacktivisim creates awareness and makes social change easier. In Slacktivism is having a powerful real-world impact, new research shows Kate Groetzinger quotes a PLOS study reporting the positive impacts of slacktivism. The author of How We Can Use Livestreaming Apps to Promote Social Justice who refers to a 2012 Georgetown Study states that “Combined, the findings of these studies suggest we have entered an age of increased activism, both on the ground and online”.
However, there are critics of slacktivism.
In #BringBackOurGirls Continues to Demand Return of Chibok Girls Nicolas Pinault draws attention to one example where online activism has been devastatingly unsuccessful. On April 14, 2014 250 girls were kidnapped from a school in Chibok, Nigeria. After a world-wide twitter campaign, #BringBackOurGirls, only 57 of the girls have been saved and interest in the story has drastically decreased.
The TedTalk How the Internet has Made Social Change Easy to Organize, Hard to Win by Zeynep Tufekci (see below) explains that online activism can only get social activist causes so far. Tufekci asks “in embracing these technologies are we overlooking some of the benefits of slow and sustained (movements)?”. She explains that the powers that be understand that sharing on social media is easier than movements that require more energy and time and therefore social activists may not be taken as seriously. Tufekci states, “…you don’t necessarily see teeth that can bite over the long term”. She also says “…the magic is in that capacity to work together, think together, collectively, which can only by built over time, with a lot of work.” Tufekci is saying we need to create and sustain organizations and networks that work together for common goals over a long period of time. And they must do more than retweet and like.
I would consider myself a slacktivist. I often repost, retweet and like posts about social causes. And I feel very passionate about those causes as I am doing so, even though I know this action is not nearly enough. As my awareness and knowledge about these topics grows, I feel more and more compelled and capable of taking further action. Without building my awareness through social media (and other sources) I might not know there was something to take action about. Even when I know there is something to act on, I may not know how…yet. Awareness is the first step. Finding out what to do is the next step. And it requires time, energy and support.
As I repost, retweet and like I am also making a statement about my own beliefs. I have begun conversations (and yes,sometimes arguments) this way with friends and family. This has helped me become more confident in my own voice and it confirms and deepens my beliefs. And has increased my ability to speak about these issues in a manner that people are more apt to hear. So my slacktivism has changed me as a person. It has made me stronger.
I am confident that I will take further action on the issues I am passionate about in the future. I believe it is important to post about the actions that we have taken, and can take to improve these situations.
So what are further steps that can be taken by slacktivist-come-social-activitist hopefuls, like myself? Remember, I mentioned activism requires support? Yes it requires a network. It can’t be done in isolation. So finding a network of support is vital. You might also consider letter writing, starting a petition, walking or protesting, or boycotting.
Until you feel ready to take it a step further, I think it’s okay to continue to be a slacktivisit and simply raise awareness. I too, am still learning and gaining strength, knowledge and support. I plan to begin taking actions in the near future to voice my opinions on social issues around me. Even then, I will continue to post, repost, retweet and like, because it does, at least, increase awareness.
If you are interested in learning more about going beyond slacktivism see the helpful websites below. And please share your thoughts on the topic.