Blog: Slacktivism: Good or Bad?

RTVF 4450 Web 2.0: Theory, Research, Uses, & Effects | Blog Post

Spring 2013

Slacktivism: Good or Bad?

By Crystal J. Hollis

Slacktivism, a combination of “Slacker” and “Activism,” is defined as a phenomenon where people do a certain action with little to no effort for the purpose of making one feel satisfaction. Slacktivist actions include changing a Facebook profile photo to a certain picture, sharing or re-blogging a message, liking a Facebook page, and signing a petition. Slacktivism has some negative criticism. According to the UNAIDS Outlook Report July 2010, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS described Slacktivists as “posits that people who support a cause by performing simple measures are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change.” Many people do not equate actual advocating with sharing hashtags on Twitter.

Today we live in a well connected world through social media. It is easy to dismiss Slacktivism as a lazy and feel-good attempt to support a cause without doing any actual effort. But is there really more to it than people perceive it to be? Social media makes it easier for people to communicate around the world. Information that wouldn’t have made traditional news are being spread by wildfire on places like 4chan and Tumblr. Spreading awareness of an issue is better than not doing anything at all. Jumping the bandwagon is certainly how grassroots movements are built; if three in every four people have not heard of a cause or an issue, how will it ever get support? Slacktivism is older than social media. All people would have to do is say they support a cause and then they are set. Some people may argue that praying or meditating is sort of a form of Slacktivism; it doesn’t mean they don’t care enough to actually pick up the shovel to help remove the oil from the Gulf, it just means that the Gulf oil spill is on their mind and they pray to their deity that things will get better.

When the Occupy Movement grew in 2011, the message was spread throughout the internet and solidarity grew significantly. The movement practically grew worldwide overnight. There was no clear and concise mission or purpose for the movement, but everyone mobilized, raised their fists, and protested all the problems they currently face. People anywhere in the United States and abroad could join their local Occupy camps. If they couldn’t do that, they could “occupy” at home, printing out flyers and yard signs for the neighbors to see. Occupying at home are not be the same thing as participating in actual Occupy camps and facing police riots and arrests. It may even be something of a feel-good measure. But at least the Slacktivist is in solidarity with the cause. Every little bit of support helps, not hinder a cause. If voters weren’t in solidarity with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, minorities in America would still struggle trying to get the separate but equal laws off the books.

I admit I have done Slacktivist activities before. I’m a Slacktivist for marriage equality, women’s rights, minority rights, against animal brutality, against the Keystone Tar sands initiative, and many other things. I do not usually give my time or money for the different causes. Does it mean I never try? I do not always have the time or money to participate. I would like to donate my blood to help the Boston Marathon explosion or the West, Texas explosion survivors, but the last time I tried to give blood I was rejected because my veins are too small. I would like to march in Washington D.C. and advocate for gay marriage or gun ownership responsibility or for a woman’s right to choose, but today I have to go to school, do homework, and go to sleep early so I can work my minimum wage job all day. No matter how little or how much one has been involved, participating and advocating for a cause one is passionate about is always something to feel good about. There is nothing wrong with being one out of many people willing to say “look, I may not do much, but I’m with these people and I care about these issues.”

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