Sometimes I hate that inner voice. The inner voice that tells you “Ugh, instead of changing your Facebook picture to have a deep blue, red, and white flag filter could you actually take action to prevent terrorism?” or “can you please stop posting pictures of yourself ‘getting fit and happy?” I’ll be the first to admit I battle this voice all the time. Now, I stand back and think why am I having this reaction? Is it because I promote social justice on social media in a more meaningful way? No, I don’t think that’s it. Do I have a negative reaction to people becoming fit because I am currently balancing Cheetos on my stomach as I type this? OK, that one may be true.
We are born in a world where we feel the need to compete with each other. I’ve met a select few people who don’t seem to have this need, or maybe they can simply hide it better than most. Part of the problem is that people internalize the dominant narrative in order to fit in. An example of this happening is how women will call other women derogatory terms as much as men do. Unfortunately, what ends up getting lost is the message or issue we are trying to fight for.
The simple fact is that slacktivism does promote social agency. Who cares if you disagree with it? If it’s helping people spread awareness of a cause, it’s better than the alternative (balancing Cheetos and doing nothing else). Do I wish people would become more involved and take action? Yes, I do. I wish we all had time in our days to help the less fortunate and work towards a world where people can meet their basic needs with dignity.
For those of you who don’t know what slacktivism is:
“Slacktivism is actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g., signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website.”
The Wikipedia article has a negative definition of slacktivism that emphasizes how it does nothing at all but make us feel better about ourselves: “It is the act of showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism.” Woahh, calm down Wikipedia. I don’t speak for the entire population, but I certainly don’t feel like I’ve changed the world by sharing or tweeting a social justice issue. Scott Gilmore argues that slacktivism makes people less likely to donate to a cause because we get instant gratification from a “like” or “share.” In fact, Gilmore goes as far as shaming people who engage in slacktivism while other researchers suggest that people are more likely to donate to a charity after they’ve signed an online petition.
Well, Mr. Gilmore and other slacktivist critics, here are a few things that slacktivism has helped spread awareness of and/or raise money for:
- ALS Bucket Challenge (raised $115 million in six weeks w/ more searches for A.L.S in 2014 than in the entire previous decade)
- #YesAllWomen – brought awareness to street harassment, and specifically bystander intervention
- #NotYourMascot – addresses the “misappropriation of Indigenous identity, imagery, and culture.
- #IdleNoMore – honouring Indigenous sovereignty and protecting land and water rights.
I’ve even included a few hashtags that are no longer widely used (and some would argue show how slacktivism is not effective). Here is the thing, though: These hashtags or “slacktivism campaigns” have led to some meaningful conversations in my classroom where students want to know why people are “sharing” or “liking” a cause/issue. Social media is especially important because it provides an opportunity or “buy in” to show students how historical issues are still relevant and have implications for today. It makes my social studies heart happy. Awareness is the predecessor to action; so, instead of wasting your time complaining about slacktivism, start having conversations around the issues that matter.
I don’t know about you, but I think we have bigger things to complain about.
- Koskie Out