Slacktivism. Or, “Wow, That Sucks.”

First time’s a charm.

The first time people encounter something new – from tech to people to ideas, first impressions are often key. Its true for a wide variety of things and I believe that it is also true for slackivism.

The first time the event trends, people seem to care. Jumping on the bandwagon, maybe? While it’s good to raise awareness, it seems as though in order for the trending item to gain momentum, people have to DO something about it. (We’ll come back to the “doing something” issue.)

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Photo Credit: Truthout.org via Compfight cc

In the articles we read, two of the examples highlighted were changing Facebook profiles with filters for support and #BringBackOurGirls.  Both of these examples are fairly recent, the hashtag was in 2014 and the filters started with marriage equality pride in 2015.

First, the filters. As mentioned in our class, it seems odd for the filters to be a sign of support. It doesn’t take much effort and really looks like jumping on the bandwagon.  Like Alec said, it was able to raise some awareness, especially on the conversation that the recent filters, available for both France and Belgium but, only for European countries? When Facebook first shared these filters, it seemed like everyone used them. I remember my Facebook feed being full of people with rainbow flag filters. With the attacks in Paris, a new filter. Still a large number of people, but less than the rainbow filter. And with the latest attack, in Belgium? Even less.

The first time the filters were introduced so many people used them. By the third filter (that I am aware of – there doesn’t seem to be a concise list of the various filters that have been offered) it seems as though fewer people were inclined to take the half a second to change their profile picture.

Now, let’s look at #BringBackOurGirls. #BringBackOurGirls raised awareness, for sure, shedding light on an issue that many in the Western world didn’t know about. But, like the article said, the girls were not brought back. 

The example of #BringBackOurGirls is heart breaking. I fully agree with the idea that the hashtag helped shed light on a terrible situation. But! After people shared the hashtag, how many actually did something?  And, when people did something, what ended up changing? Even influencial people shared and cared, but… it still didn’t help.

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Photo Credit: Michelle Obama via Twitter

The hashtag gained a lot of popularity and did so quickly. It trended again a year after the kidnappings, and helped spread awareness to people again – a lot of whom had forgotten. The first time that the hashtag trended, so many people were part of the conversation.  In the first three weeks, the hashtag was shared over a million times. Since then, it has trended again, but not to the same extent as the first time.

So, back to slackivisim.  With these two examples, we can see that people are quick to jump on the bandwagon. People enjoy being a part of things and definitely enjoy showing that they care. However, the problem with slackivisim is when a person shares to participate in the trend and then does nothing more.

(See? I told you we’d come back to the “doing something more” issue.)

I agree that just sharing and then doing nothing more raises awareness. But, I think that in order to be a true activist, you need to do something more than just spread awareness. Doing something is widely different, depending on the issue at hand. Sometimes doing something is signing a petition, other times it is donating money. Doing something can be volunteering or writing a blog post or a tweet about the issue. Doing something also means continuing to fight for the cause or uphold the issue even after the spotlight goes away.

I think that an activist continues to fight until their cause is won or the issue is solved. A slackivist shares and moves on.

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Photo Credit: Eric.Parker via Compfight cc

So maybe we can define slackivism as supporting an issue or a cause when it first comes to light, but not continuing to fight or help once the trend dies down.

To be an activist is to continue to fight, help, talk about the issues that you believe in, wholeheartedly.

Your thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “Slacktivism. Or, “Wow, That Sucks.”

  1. I appreciate your take on slacktivism. I, like you, only see it as support of an issue, not directly related to activism. Even in all the examples we’ve read about, there have been people behind the scenes actively trying to change something. Support only gets us so far, and eventually we’ve all got to realize that it isn’t enough.

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  2. I agree with your idea. Only awareness is not enough, to act means to “do” something, and to insist on it, until succeed; even what we do is simple and insignificant. This is the difference between slacktivist and activist.

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