Have I mentioned before that I feel as though I live in a bubble? Under a rock? In my own little world? Or, at least, I did – before this class.
There are so many things I had never heard of or read about before taking part in this course. Partly, it is because we are privileged enough to be broaching new and engaging topics every week that are introducing me to new concepts. However, another contributing factor would be my involvement on social media. Going on Twitter everyday, I can see new and trending topics from news outlets and peers’ work. This keeps me ‘in the know’ more than ever before, and keeps me up-to-date with important information.
Although not necessarily new, slacktivism is one of those ideas that I had never heard of before. In essence, it is the movement of online activism, where people tend to post activist comments, tweet social change, or like others’ posts and tweets on these matters online. They may change their profile pictures to demonstrate a sign of support, or they may tweet their participation in an event, like Pink Shirt day. They seem to be doing good, or at least supporting it, but do not necessarily follow-up with action.
This has caused a big debate on Slactivism vs Activism.
Many agree that slacktivism is a problem. Scott Gilmore wrote an incredibly opinionated and to the point article stating that slacktivists are lazy, narcissistic, and don’t actually do anything to help.
Although I understand his standpoint – and I agree that action is required for great societal change to occur – I respectfully disagree with the fact that slacktivists are lazy and narcissistic, and that their support veiled behind their social media accounts do nothing for social change. According to Kate Groetzinger, research does show that slacktivism can help spread the word, and can get more people to engage in activism. It brings awareness to concepts that may be unknown to some people, and helps keep important ideas in the news. Gillian Branstetter echoes such benefits of slacktivism, noting its successes in the past have generated buzz leading to conversations about politics and actual social change.
I will gladly take a trend where people can come together for something positive. I don’t care how much it dips into the “slacktivism” category.
Abby Rosmarin, July 6th 2015
I will admit, just like Abby Rosmarin, I do get frustrated when I see social movements online without subsequent action to follow. It is easy to click ‘like’; not as easy to take the time to follow-through on all your likes. I was frustrated when some friends would do the ALS ice bucket challenge without actually donating to the cause. Was that not the whole point of the fundraising endeavour? Or did they simply want the attention of throwing ice water all over themselves? This is where I can see Scott Gilmore’s idea of narcissism in slacktivism. But I don’t think every slacktivist falls in that category, so a negative generalization in inappropriate in this context. There were those in my family who did the challenge as it was intended, and raised a lot of money and awareness for the cause. I knew about ALS because it had impacted by family personally; however, many did not, and they learned through social media likes and ice bucket challenges posted online the absolutely devastating affects of ALS and why it is essential to raise money for its research. This information helps them understand causes they may not have understood in another circumstance. When people learn about something, I think they are more inclined to help that cause and make a difference. Sometimes, you need to start smaller before going bigger.
And that is key: change can only come when people care.
Abby Rosmarin, July 6th 2015
Which is why I am not against slacktivism as a whole. It is not the same as activism, but it is still a positive move towards change. It is a way to introduce people to new causes, it is a way to get information out there for those who would not otherwise have access to it (or knowledge of it to gain access), and it is an easy way to bring awareness to important topics. I personally think it encourages more discussion, and it is a great step to get started. The following video sums up my personal opinion on slacktivism quite precisely.
Just as Dean Obeidallah stated, it is a start, and any way to start expressing your opinion and getting your foot out of the door towards activism is an important one. You may not be an activist, but you help move things along. Slacktivism should never replace activism, it should never replace donations and actual time put into doing work, but it shouldn’t be criticized as to be completely reduced and ridiculed in our society. The little things matter, and eventually, some of those little things turn into big things. Furthermore, when you realize you are not the only person out there who believes in a cause, you gain a community, and that community can encourage even further action.
So, yes, you may be an activist, and you may think slacktivists are, well, slackers. But at least they are starting somewhere. They are liking things, commenting on posts, maybe even making videos. As we have seen previously, blogs and tweets can lead to dangerous trolls and bullies. So, really, that is a step in a direction of social change. I agree that action is required for real change, and that it can be frustrating when you seem to be the only one who is following through on your words; but, really? What about those who could care less about social change, and don’t even partake in something like slacktivism? That indifference is where we should focus our worries, not on slacktivism.
I, of course, would not have heard about slacktivism had it not been for this class, nor for social media. Ipso facto, social media brings me important information about concepts and ideas that I would never had known before because I didn’t know to look for them. So perhaps my opinion on the importance of information sharing on social media – and the positive consequences that come from sharing your opinions or liking posts in such outlets – is clouded by my recent discovery of (and positive obsession with) these venues.
Then again, instead of complaining about slacktivists, can’t we all just go and spend our time on positive action?