Between challenging systemic racism through the Black Lives Matter Movement to the fight for voting rights in the upcoming US election, a lot is happening in the world right now. On top of it, the coronavirus has restricted our access to conventional activist opportunities. AND social media is on the rise, becoming pervasive and an even stronger tool in our society. All of these combined equal the need for people to take action. However, these conditions have also fostered a rise in slacktivism. There are a lot of questions to answer and a lot of things to discuss, especially if we want to be productive social media activists and activists in general. Additionally, I want to mention that you don’t need to be “an activist” to promote change and create a world that is more just and fair.
what is slacktivism? Slacktivism is an UN-recognized term for the scenario where people support a political or social cause through simple means using limited effort through social media or other easy outlets. It usually entails a lack of motivation and dedication to seeing an actual change in society and policy. As a teenager, the kind of slacktivism that I witness is usually based on the appearance of seeming engaged on social media and being “woke”.
why is it prevalent right now? We are living in a very consequential time right now. In the news specifically, it’s easy to see how much is happening and how certain movements are growing. With Black Lives Matter and the general xenophobia in the white house, people are getting angrier and more involved in seeing actual change. However, this also means that social media is full of posts and trends that take advantage of the prominence of current events. People repost and sign petitions, then feel satisfied that they’ve helped and disengaged from those movements. With the rise of social media and the growing tensions in politics and social justice, slacktivism is a term we should all know and be conscious of.
why is it a problem? Slacktivism justifies limited action. It gives people comfort in taking the least amount of effort and action towards promoting change, which discourages the actual construction work that is needed.
is slacktivism ever okay? I want to be clear when I say, social media can be a strong and constructive policy tool. It can educate groups of people that aren’t likely to watch the news. It’s a cost-effective (free) way to share information and increase awareness. And it’s important to acknowledge the positive sides of slacktivism. However, it’s doubtful whether or not that engagement is genuine or if that information is reliable. In my opinion, the definition of slacktivism makes it clear that it’s not productive. However, some of the actions that constitute slacktivism can be used as a starting off point, as long as we surpass those limited actions with genuine interest offline. Here is an article that looks at multiple sides of the slacktivism argument.
what is genuine media activism? This is the other side of using social media as a way to promote social and political change. It’s essentially the productive version of slacktivism, utilizing all of the positives of slacktivism, and then taking it further to valuable efforts. Social media is too influential for a platform to overlook as a policy tool, especially regarding younger demographics.
how do we overcome slacktivism? This is a hard question because of how pervasive slacktivism is and how easy it is to do. The first step is being able to recognize it. Once we can discern what is slacktivism and what is genuine media activism, then we can tackle it. Then, we need to start promoting and providing outlets for offline activism. Making sure people are staying engaged, by giving them the knowledge of how to correctly act and promote change. This can be by circulating information about volunteer opportunities at elections or starting discussion clubs. Like I said before, this is the difference between slacktivism and genuine media activism, getting people to show interest off of Instagram. Once we can promote constructive action, we can start to see visible change.
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