I think there is a big difference between online activism and slacktivism, although people often use the terms synonymously. Just like I think there is a difference between cyberbullying and online harassment.
We all have the friends on social media who are slacktivists. We may have been tempted to or already have stopped following them as they share, like, and flood your network with controversial issues, but never seem to really do anything about it. Yet they feel like they are doing their part to bring about real social change and feel good about it.
Slacktivism in this essence frustrates me as it gives people who are actually fighting to provoke change a harder time to make a difference. I also wonder if the people who share these stories actually take the time to read them and make critical decisions on them or just share them because the title, photo and caption are captivating.
Slacktivists are criticized for people who just want the image of a change-maker, but aren’t actually doing anything to help. For example, they will post, share, and comment about issues, but it stops there. They won’t make a donation, volunteer, or organize a rally because they feel they have already done their part.
Just talking about social justice issues on social media isn’t going to drive social change and change the world, but it may be the reason something catches fire, cause others to do more and begin a social movement, it might move people from being passive viewers to active witnesses who see something and do something, or even get the conversation going. In using our voices on social media we can make the actions of a few active protesters visible to millions of people, all over the world. Although we might not have the capability or resources to be on the ground with the protesters fighting for change, we are able to use our voice to shed light on social justice issues.
Online activism is more than just sharing social justice issues through 140 characters, comments, and a clever hashtag. Social media is just another outlet to use our voice and speak up about these causes. It helps to generate empathy around the issue and hopefully breaks the stigma of talking about it. However the activism shouldn’t stop there. You should strive to be a change maker, conversation starter, and active participant in offline spaces as well.
But maybe in the end the very essence of this post makes me a slacktivist? Or maybe, although it may be small, I am using my voice to start critical conversations and bring awareness?