Online Activism or Slacktivism? You decide.

This weeks readings are around the idea of Online Activism. There are two predominant views on online activism, one being that online activism reaches a greater audience and is making a difference in the world via social media. Whereas the second perspective is that online activism, termed “slavitivism” is supporting a cause but putting little time or effort into the cause, such as signing a petition.

The Death of Slacktivism looked at the use of hashtags and the ability go viral, the article has described some of the viral sensations as trendy and shallow. Although, I did find it somewhat ironic that the author titled the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge as ASL Ice Bucket Challenge incorrectly. Especially after calling the phenomenon shallow. Forget what the Ice Bucket Challenge was about? Read about it here14929011085_3d3b3d9fd3_z

Photo by: University of Central Arkanasa

Looking at different viral sensations, social media was the reason these topics took off. Another app that made this happen was Yik Yak, which has been discussed in a previous blog post. People used Yik Yak to communicate in a geographical location and share informtion. This was similiar, but less involved than How We Can Use Livestreaming Apps to Promote Justice which shared live video on a wide range of issues, eg protests.

But why is this relevant to education? Here is one reason. Look at the experience of Trayvon Martin. I had a student a few years ago who was following the event and was incredibly engaged. Even ten years ago, would this student have had this ability to stay current with the event? This specific event may not have even been  brought to light if it wasn’t for social media and those “slacktivists”. I say “slacktivists” because I do believe online activism has a place in our highly digital world. The part of the article I appreciated the most was “Think globally, act locally”. That speaks to me because I also agree with that notion of being able to look at social justice issues on a global scale, while ensuring you continue to act on a local scale. Social media has proven to be beneficial to online activism.

Slacktivism is having a powerful real-world impact, new research shows offers a new term, arm chair activism.  Have you heard that one? I haven’t. This short, but persuasive article adopts the idea that the power of online activism lies in the large scale of individuals who are engaged.

Photo Credit: @OccupyWallStNYC

Instead of reviewing the article, here is what I found most powerful:

This research builds on a 2012 study by researchers at Georgetown University, who found that those who support movements online are actually more likely to engage in activism in real life.

Combined, the findings of these studies suggest we have entered an age of increased activism, both on the ground and online.

The findings I appreciate, as they align with my thoughts about online activism.

Here is another article of support:

I Get It: You Don’t Like Slacktivism. Now Shut Up. Only Don’t.  What this article had me reflecting on what we all do as individuals to take part in activism. I agree that in many cases it takes more than a hashtag, like or share to support a cause. But, we do what we can at that point in our lives. We all support different causes in different ways. Some causes, I “like”, “share” or “retweet”, one example around mental illness, Bell Let’s Talk. Another example, Alzheimer’s, I donate money and walk with my family. Another example, Bright Eyes Dog Rescue, I run their Twitter and Instagram. Some I do daily, some sporadically and some annually. We should be proud of what we are doing, and what we are doing to encourage younger generations to make a difference.

Now, here is a brief description of some conflicting thoughts:

The problem with #slactivism ran on the basis that, online activism is actually hindering “real” activism  as people feel they have already done their part by “liking” or wearing blue, etc. They are less likely to donate funds or donate time because dopamine and endorphins have  been released to reward us for your good behaviour? But what about Movember, that donates money as well. Nope, still not quite good enough, still is it a narcissistic idea and men are only donating for their own benefit: to sport sketchy facial hair.

Slacktivism? Nah, I’m still going with online activism. 


5 thoughts on “Online Activism or Slacktivism? You decide.

  1. Great summary of the topic, Janelle.
    I think the power of online activism lies in exactly what you described with your student engaged in the Trayvon Martin shooting. Without the online coverage, your student may have never known about the incident. May have never thought twice about shootings like this. May have never developed an understanding, opinion, or a deeper world view.
    Now that your student was thinking globally, learning about the incident in Florida, they can make connections to their own community. “Think globally, act locally”.
    It’s easy to just click like, but if one of those clicks turns into something more, I think we’re on to something.

  2. I agree with you and Kyle about the opportunities that students have to engage in social issues through social media.Their engagement makes them activists through their ability to educate others.

  3. Really love hearing your thoughts, and seeing you link to a couple articles I haven’t already read on the topic. I’m currently working on a campaign to get people’s ideas about ‘slacktivism’ to change, and embrace the world of online activism for all its possibilities and its limitations and I love hearing people talk about it positively. There’s no need to be whole-heartedly one way of the other. Just because you believe in offline activism doesn’t mean that online activism doesn’t contribute to change. No single situation can be changed by hard and fast rules for protesting, and in many situations offline practices are more effective. But people often miss the point of online activism… Not only does it allow people to express solidarity and form community bonds, but it also allows access to those less able to physically have a presence in offline forms of activism. Everyone can contribute, and that line of thinking globally, acting locally becomes all the more important.

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