by: Vanessa Stirling
It’s a Monday afternoon, you’re scrolling through your Facebook timeline trying to find that one cooking video to send to your friend. When a photo pops up of the damage the California wildfires caused. A well-known celebrity you follow urges you to like or share the photo in order to bring more awareness to the devastation caused. Without thinking you share to all of your friends and then continue on with your day.
And just like that, you have just participated in online slacktivism without even knowing it. What is online slacktivism you may ask?
Slacktivism can be defined as when people “support a cause by performing simple measures” but “are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change”. By just one click, you rationalized in your mind that you helped spread awareness and therefore did your part to help the cause.
This is a very common occurrence that happens every day, and I myself am guilty of it. When did one click of a button become a way to validate our emotions of guilt which rise every time we come across a cause? Social media arguably has become the fastest ways to spread news and raise awareness of a cause, but not necessarily bring action about. A single individual can simply make the choice to click one button and share with their 1.2 million followers on Instagram and suddenly by the end of the week everyone knows the kid yodeling in a Walmart.
Social media allows us to be lazy, it allows us to believe that by clicking one button and sharing a photo with our friends, we are enacting change and lets us off the imaginary hook of a guilty conscious.
Let’s take the now well known social media campaign that comes around every year, #BellLet’sTalk. The campaign, which runs every year on January 30th, brings awareness to mental health issues. The problem I have with this particular campaign is that it’s all good and well on January 30th every year and my timeline blows up with support for those struggling with mental health but every other day mental health is still quite a taboo topic.
Therapy is still regarded as an activity for those with ‘serious issues’ as a friend kindly reminded me the other day, “well there must be something really wrong with you if you’re seeking out a stranger for help” when I briefly mentioned I had a therapy appointment later that day. This friend actively participates in #BellLet’sTalk every year, but still holds onto certain ideas of mental health. As you can see, people are quick to jump on the hypothetical bandwagon to support a cause when it is trending or in hot demand, but just as easily forget the issue is still very real when it is no longer at the top of their social newsfeed.
By simply sending out a text or a tweet, we can suddenly feel validated that we are good people and are indeed changing the world.
But not all hope is lost.
Social media does have its redeeming qualities.
The movement #MeToo empowered women all around the world and created an environment where it was safe enough for them to share their stories of sexual assault and bring their assaulters up to face justice. This movement sparked social and political change, bringing about development in policies across the nation.
Social media is an immensely powerful tool, one that allows us to connect with millions worldwide and has the ability to create an environment willing to bring about change.
Now I’m not saying jump on board with every cause that comes across your newsfeed, this does nothing. Instead, I suggest actually looking into causes that genuinely interest you, create an environment that allows for the change you want to see.
Muslic, H. (2017, June 20). What is Slacktivism and is it Even Helping? Retrieved November 17, 2018, from https://nonprofithub.org/social-media/what-is-slacktivism-does-it-help/