What is Slacktivism?
If you are a frequent social media user, odds are you have participated in some amount of social media activism… perhaps even slacktivism. A clever combination of the words “slacker” and “activism,” slacktivism refers to cause-related actions, which require little effort and are completed via social media.
If you participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, sent a #YesAllWomen tweet or signed the WhiteHouse.gov petition to deport Justin Bieber, you can pat yourself on the back and add slacktivist to your resume.
Why the Bad Reputation?
Many people view social media activism, especially slacktivism, as worthless or even harmful. Critics argue these quick, easy online interactions make the doer feel better and little else. With a simple click, you can appear to have done your part to help starving children in Africa without making any commitment to improve their fate. It’s basically a “get out of jail free” card for your conscience, with the added benefit of boosting your public image.
Others feel that online activism lacks the “realness” of traditional grassroots activism. Signing an online petition or liking a Facebook post just does not have the same oomph as rallying in the streets with like-minded individuals or going door-to-door talking to your neighbors.
Of course, it doesn’t help that slacktivism is often associated with the dubious Millennial generation. Like Esurance, slacktivism was”born online, raised by technology, and majors in efficiency.” All great traits for making something easy to complete, like buying insurance or liking your cause, but not necessarily effective for cultivating true activists.
Does it Serve a Purpose?
While critics bemoan social media activism for being too quick and commitment-free, this is also one of its benefits. Supporting and sharing causes via social media is inherently easy. So, love ’em or hate ’em, slacktivists do play a major role in spreading awareness. Every like, retweet, pin and share carries the message closer to becoming viral. The more times a message is shared, regardless of the sharer’s investment level, the greater chance it has of either changing someone’s mind or reaffirming their alignment with the cause.
Over time, the slacktivists may receive some benefits as well. They can become more connected with and invested in the cause. They might even graduate to activists.
The ultimate goal of any good campaign is to change behavior. Even if everyone knows about and agrees with a cause, there is still a key next step… meaningful action! The hope is that some one who started out using a hashtag, may eventually be compelled to donate their time or money. Ideally, they will then turn to social media to encourage others to follow suit. Successful, 21st-century campaigners know this and use social media’s ease and convenience to their advantage. If you’re running a campaign, be smart. Embrace modern activism, utilize social media and appreciate the slacktivists. If you play your cards right, you can turn those slacktivists into activists.