Lights, Camera, Slacktion!
Slacktivism is a term I was initially introduced to in my first year of University. While nowadays it can be synonymous with ‘feel good activism’, Popova defines the term in a way that I’ve never seen matched; ‘the tendency to passively affiliate ourselves with causes for the sake of peer approval rather than taking real, high-stakes action to support them’. With the ease and immediacy of social media, almost any individual can participate in a revolution or protest, however it is with this ease of participating that slacktivism has truly flourished in Western societies.
Of course, there is no doubt that social media has transformed traditional activism and made way for a new era of revolution, just look at the #Euromaiden protests in Ukraine, or the Kony 2012 Campaign, however as magical as the Internet may seem, people have (as always) tainted its ingenious.
Nearly half of the worlds population live on $2.50 a day, with at least 25% of the worlds population living in extreme poverty. Most first world occupants don’t realise the extent of their fortune, ‘If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy’. This is why we become culprits of slacktivism, because we not only neglect to realise how wealthy we really are, but we forget the reality of those who are in the remaining 92%. Some are homeless, some are sick, some are dying, while many are engaged in true activism.
In saying this, the Internet is now one of the few tools that enables us see, and even get to know these ‘unknown others’, so rather than debating that the Internet makes us lazy sloths, I will agree with Popova when he says that ‘online communities broaden our scope of empathy’.
A study conducted by Christopher Jones explores the success/failures of 3 major activism events that have occurred offline, with the help of online campaigns. His findings concluded that the ‘ability of the internet to revolutionize offline social and political action in a way that was never possible before’. The Internet provides a platform for communication between those who can physically engage in a protest or revolution and those who are on the other side of the world, searching for some way to help. The term slacktivism should not be associated with the Internet itself, rather with the Internet’s users. Yes, many people, if not the majority, use Twitter and Facebook to like and retweet posts that induce a sense of philanthropy into their lives, without forcing them to actually do anything of worth. However, those who have engaged in activism online have made a world of change, and it is for this reason that slacktivism should not be confused with online activism.
- 2014, Kony 2012, Invisible Children, viewed 26 September 2014, <http://invisiblechildren.com/kony-2012/>
- Barbera, P & Metzger, M 2014, ‘Tweeting the Revolution’, Huffington Post, 23 April, viewed 26 September 2014, <www.huffingtonpost.com/pablo-barbera/tweeting-the-revolution-s_b_4831104.html>
- Jones, C 2013, ‘Activism or Slacktivism? The Role of Social Media in Effecting Social Change’, viewed 26 September 2014, <http://chris-m-jones.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/activism_slacktivism_report.pdf>
- Kessler, S 2010, ‘Why Social Media is Reinventing Activism’, Mashable, 10 October, viewed 26 September 2014, <http://mashable.com/2010/10/09/social-media-activism/>
- Meadows, D [No Date], ‘State of the Village Report’, ODT, viewed 26 September 2014, <http://www.odt.org/Pictures/popvillage.pdf>
- Popova, M 2010, ‘Malcolm Gladwell Is #Wrong’, Change Observer, viewed 26 September 2014, <http://changeobserver.designobserver.com/feature/malcolm-gladwell-is-wrong/19008/>
- Shah, A 2011, ‘Poverty Facts and Stats’, Global Issues, viewed 26 September 2014, <http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats>