Can we really call online activism slacktivism?

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.

Photo Credit: danielito311 via Compfight cc

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?

Are We Living a Split Life?

The way social media impacts our online identities is something I reflect upon regularly, but the course readings and videos from this week really struck me. It is hard to believe the impact that social media has on our reality. And the reality of it is, young Canadians are growing up in a wired world.

Young Canadiana Life Online

Graphic via Media Smarts retreived from:

It is hard to believe how much of our online presence is impacted by an algorithm which shapes the content we are shown. Sites such as Facebook are experts at this, deciding which posts we should see through a mathematical equitation. This is something that really grinds my gears as only became aware of this algorithm after reading “Facebook – Our ffriendly automated identity bender” by Jason Miller.  I had a feeling Facebook somehow was differentiating what I should see due to the content of my News Feed, but I was unaware of the invisible criteria. Miller’s post lead me to a post by Danah Boyd regarding what the Facebook experiment teaches us. It is hard to believe that Facebook chooses who we should see and interact with (just so we will come back again… and again). Furthermore, does what we see have a greater impact than just coming back? Does it affect us emotionally?

Facebook created a mood manipulation experiment to find that exact question out. Is Facebook slowly changing the way we see the world through this invisible power?

“Because so many people, rightly or wrongly, use the platform as their primary communication medium, Facebook’s news item filtering algorithms can have a direct impact on what kind of person your ffriends think you are.” – Jason Millar

But this isn’t only Facebook’s problem. The way social media impacts our identity is prevalent on all social media sites. Additionally our identity is shaped in what we choose to post and how we choose to perceive others posts. In the case of Madison Holleran, her life seemed to be ideal, by what she was posting on Instagram, but what was missing was the parts of her life you can’t see… the hardships, struggles, and depression.  The hashtag campaign #LifeUnfiltered opens the conversation of how much we filter our real self on social. Our identities are often projecting a spilt image, depicting to your social network, the person you want them to see. Are we masking depression online? Why do we feel the need to compare ourselves to others online?

So I leave you with this question: Are our lives really an augmented reality? Do we really experience digital dualism? Or are we living a split life between online and offline, presenting the “person we want to be” in our online identities?

Media Education

Taking a big step out of my comfort zone by creating a vlog for my second post! (Nerves set in a few times, so please disregard me saying critiques instead of critics!)

Ideas are based and formulated from this weeks course readings as listed below:

  1. Do “Digital Natives” Exist? (PBS – Watch until 5:34) – This video from PBS presents an excellent overview of Prensky’s “Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants” framework including the evolution of the idea and the common criticisms.
  2. Visitors and Residents (David White) – David White from the UK provides an alternate view on Prensky’s framework, useful for understanding the continuum of digital engagement.
  3. “Social Media Sites as Networked Publics” (danah boyd) – boyd discusses the emergence of social networking spaces as networked publics, and examines how they have emerged to replace and augment our traditional concepts of public space.
  4. “The IRL Fetish” (Nathan Jurgenson) – Jurgenson introduces an important concept around the common obsession with binarizing online vs. face-to-face spaces and giving less value to digital spaces and communication.
  5. “YouTube and You” (Michael Wesch) – Wesch discusses YouTube as a cultural medium; he describes the context collapse that occurs in online spaces as well as the effect on issues of identity and self-awareness.
  6. Excerpt from An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube (Michael Wesch) – This short clip from a longer Wesch keynote describes the spread of one of the first popular digital memes and how this represented new forms of collective expression and celebration.
  7. Transmedia: High quality, no captionsLower quality with captions (Henry Jenkins) – Jenkins discusses the concept of transmedia and how youth (in particular) are reclaiming digital spaces from corporate and institutional power.

Thanks for watching! I challenge you to try a vlog!