Slacktivism; (n) actions performed in support of a political ideology or social cause that usually requires little effort from the participant.
Slacktivism gets a lot of slack
Slacktivism is widely seen as the lazy person’s activism, that is only for the benefit of the participants own ego. It’s perceived as a millennial construct and it supports or perpetuates the narrative that millennials are lazy, entitled and technology obsessed. We’ve seen the phenomenon on social media in various forms and to various degrees of success. Some memorable ones include the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2015, which raised more than $100 million in just 30 days and led to the discovery of a new gene associated with ALS. The “No Makeup Selfie” campaign launched by Breast Cancer UK raised more than $2 million in just a week for cancer research.
So why is slacktivism ridiculed so much? Both of these campaigns were slammed as lazy and vain, with participants accused of doing it “for the likes”. But money talks, doesn’t it? And the results speak for themselves.
Education is key
The key benefit that I can see of slacktivism is the viral nature of social media. Doing something for the likes may be right, but the likes are what propagate education. Anytime someone reads something which makes them stop and think, and maybe seek out more information… well I can’t see that as a bad thing.
If by liking or sharing something, it puts it in front of someone else in my network, then what’s the harm? It can allow them to broaden their understanding of an issue and seek further clarification. It can give answers about something they were unaware of or even misinformed about. If that is the case, then I feel I’ve made a difference.
I never didn’t identify as a feminist; in fact in high school I did a feminist reading of Dracula and Queen of the Damned, if you ever wondered if I’ve always been a little weird and opinionated. However, it’s only in the last few years I’ve started to really think about what that meant to me and to the people around me. The feminist movement has regained traction in modern consciousness largely due to viral articles and so-called “slacktivism”. Discovering this online led me to seek further clarification on a number of terms, and educated me about my own internalised misogyny. I discovered intersectional feminism; the theory that all women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. It includes the theory that oppressive institutions such as racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism and classism are all connected and cannot be examined separately.
Slacktivism has made me a better person
Rediscovering feminism through slacktivism taught me that my voice is important, but it is not as important as those who are even more marginalised than I am. It’s taught me to speak up, but also to listen and accept the lived experiences of women and POC around me, and around the world. Identifying my own internalised misogyny allowed me to become closer with the women around me. It’s made me more accepting of the choices that other people make and I now question those around me when they start judging others as well.
Feminism helped me identify a number of things that have happened to me in my past as harassment and assault and enabled me to proceed down a path of healing. It has given me confidence in myself and allowed me to recognise a healthy relationship when it came along.
If liking and sharing did all that for me, what might it do for someone after me?
How to Care about Everything
So to the point of this whole entry. The simple fact is that social media encourages us to care about everything. There is constantly a new trendy issue or cause online demanding you to care about it, give up your money for it and your time. Post titles, protests, petitions and click-bait articles are designed to make us feel guilty for not caring about them. Then, when we do care about something and throw a bucket of ice water over our heads, we’re accused of slacktivism.
We can’t win. And we can’t care about everything; so don’t. If all you can take that day is to ‘like’ a headline to show your support and move on, you don’t have to feel bad about that. And you definitely don’t have to feel bad if that day you care a lot about it, and it leads you to share your thoughts or even give to the cause.
Caring is trendy again and it couldn’t have come at a better time – our world is in danger and we can’t afford to be apathetic anymore. But you should still pick your own battles. When everything is a social issue, you can elect to choose the one’s that matter to you – whether that’s feminism, climate change, animal welfare or politics. (Just not men’s rights, that’s not a thing. They already have all the rights, I’m sorry; your choice is invalid).
‘Liking’ something doesn’t make you lazy or a bad activist, it just means you don’t have the capacity to do more than that right then. And that’s okay, because the internet allows you to do that.
Your ‘like’ may just help it to reach someone who really needs it.
photo by Nirzar Pangarkar