Reckling: Slactivism: All talk, no show
Are you a slacktivist? Do you regularly practice slacktivism and feel like you’ve helped “the cause” just because you clicked a button or lambasted something you disagree with in a very public way via social media? It’s become a modern-day epidemic; millions of people fall into the slacktivism trap, pounding away at Twitter, Facebook and blogs in search of self-congratulatory kudos and stroking their own egos while, in reality, absolutely nothing is being accomplished.
Slacktivism — it’s one of those funky portmanteaus that merge two separate words (slacker and activism) to create an entirely new word. Usually, it’s a derogatory term used to describe sedentary people who sit at their computers all day. Even the word slacker, alone, denotes a lack of ambition and drive to get things done.
The Internet is a breeding ground for the slacktivism phenomena. It’s also an ideal vehicle for lazy people to get that warm, fuzzy feeling when they “do something” about problems without actually having to physically do something about the problems. Much of the social-media world and its “look at me” platform consist of empty time spent parading empty efforts. All those posts “I bought jewelry from Haiti” and “I support all homeless animals — oh, and homeless people, too! Aren’t I special?” are a way to participate without getting your hands or dungarees dirty.
The most recent example of slactivism has been the “celebrity” hashtag campaign #BringBackOurGirls. The kidnapping of innocent children is the ultimate evil, but it will take a deeper commitment than Michelle Obama and other “stars” holding a cardboard sign while making a sad face over an injustice. No matter how well-intentioned the message, it will take a hell of a lot more than the shallow quickie of hashtagging to bring those girls back.
Slacktivists affiliate themselves with various causes, do pointless things to help themselves feel better about themselves and constantly pressure “friends” with tweets and Facebook postings to join the movement in feeble, ineffective ways such as wearing a red T-shirt on Monday or changing your avatar to a Polar Bear.
Email was the first frontier for slacktivism with all those email requests to “please forward this to all your friends,” but soon Facebook and Twitter got in the slacktivist game by asking everyone to add text or an assigned color to one’s avatar or replacing your profile image. Does this really help raise awareness, create meaningful conversations and encourage volunteerism or donations? Or is it a cop-out for those who want to align themselves with an outcry for change and have the appearance of being truly involved and caring?
Many will say, “It does no harm” and “It’s all in fun!” But slacktivism can be harmful. It takes away real work and hard cash for those nonprofit causes that are trying to raise awareness to conquer serious, multifaceted problems.
Of course, toiling away in the ranks — as an anonymous volunteer — isn’t nearly as sexy as preaching about social change or a heartbreaking disease to collect “likes” from your social Internet faux-friends. If you do volunteer work or get involved with a cause, your real friends will know this about you and support your good deeds.
It’s also a slap in the face to those who actually do donate their time and money to help with causes that are dear to them. They actually are making a positive impact and contributing to the change that is needed.
Let’s be real and face the facts. Serious issues require hard work, devotion, time and money;s they can’t be solved by simply posting the color of bra you’re wearing, replacing your profile photo with a cartoon or liking a page.
Many people find computer activity empowering and hide behind their Internet personas so much that, in reality, they do nothing. Slacktivist postings do nothing to help the real problem but are merely a false way to feel involved in a movement.
There’s also the political slacktivist, the folly of brainlessness where the numb- minded simply repost one-sided news sources that pluck out-of-context comments from one politician or another. Will our once-great country of fine citizens diminish into a wasteland of slacktivist sheeple — a nation too preoccupied with the next headline to take time to research the truth behind the last “hot” story?
Slacktivist posting was fun the first few times, but the empty satisfaction quickly fades for those who like to get their hands dirty and actually make a difference. Maybe the question to ask ourselves is: If we’re not willing to get anonymously dirty in the service of whatever cause it is that motivates us, is it time to re-examine our motivations? Let’s get real or shut up.
Margaret Reckling lives in Woody Creek and welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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