Slacktivism: There's a reason why it happens

From Wikipedia:

"The word (slacktivism) is considered a pejorative term that describes "feel-good" measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts also tend to dilute awareness campaigns[citation needed] and require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist."

In a discussion we had during the digital natives with a cause? Thinkathon, we took a moment to reflect on Slacktivism and the role it plays in modern activism. A couple suggested we take the frugal definition of slacktivism: achieving the greatest good with the least effort.

The internet makes this pretty easy in a number of ways: retweeting on Twitter, liking a page on Facebook, blogging about it...all these ways are essentially participating in a cause but not necessarily effecting a change.

So why bother?

In our discussions I discovered what I believe is the reason and perhaps motivation for slacktivism. I believe that most people want to make an impact in whatever way they can, but they are not sure exactly what that impact is.

In a crisis scenario such as a major earthquake (say the Haiti earthquake for example), a number of people are ready and willing to help; but most of what they do is RT'ing on Twitter. My guess is that they do this with the hope of spreading information throughout their networks with the hope that it will be relevant to somebody who can use that information to effect a change. They have no clue what that change is, but they know for sure that their mouse clicks will in one way or another contribute to that change.

So in a way, slacktivism isn't laziness, rather its a lack of knowledge of the end result.

If people had a way to know what and how exactly they wanted to achieve, I believe we would see more active participation and with the rise of the internet and other digital tools, perhaps a new model of active activism would take centre stage.

Your thoughts?

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Simeon, Just a quick concern:

Nilofar's picture


Just a quick concern: If net users are alert and intelligent enough to get online, tweet and post news about the earthquake (just an example), wouldn't they be smart enough to get a phone number or contact id of someone handling the rescue effort on site - donate clothes, give money, volunteer to personally help victims etc? How difficult is it to get such information nowadays?

I refuse to accept that digital activists or slactivists, are clueless about end results, targets, effective management or organisation, and therefore, resort to "tweeting" about significant events.

More worrying, I just see an increasing incidence of information junkets - big blocks of data being bandied about to and fro by digitalists - being thrown out there in cyber space. With more digital voices joining the bandwagon of "slactivism", crucial information which can actually be used or analysed by experts or volunteers on site, is becoming distorted or simply lost in digital clutter.

However, slactivism does and will come to play an increasingly important role in raising awareness about social evils - eve teasing, infanticide, dowry, drugs, abuse - through information dissemination, insightful and provocative articles, support groups where you can post anonymously about your problems, etc. Here, repeated tweets, FB posts, Likes, passing on Links and videos, etc, only help in reinforcing certain good practices.

At the end of the day, I strongly believe that online efforts have to always be ably supported by offline plans. Ground reality is that a majority of the people in this world have zero access to the Net or digital reality, so we need to meet them, help them and pass on information relevant to them in a platform that is easily accessible to them.

What say you? Cheers! :)

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