According to Techopedia, the term slacktivism refers to “simple measures used to support an issue or social cause involving virtually no effort on the part of participants” (Slacktivism, n.d.). Prior to this class, I had never heard of slacktivism, or how controversial the topic is. Who knew that one made up term could cause so much online debate! The more I research slacktivism and reflect on my own opinion of the practice, the more I realize that I still have not fully formed an opinion. As a result of an increased use of social media this term, I am realizing that I am someone whose opinion is easily swayed. It seems that every time I read an article, tweet, or blog post, I automatically agree with most of what is being said. I recognize that I need to question and critically analyze more, and agree less. However, this is a difficult pattern to break.
In an effort to wrap my head around the impact that slacktivism has on social change, I sifted through articles on the subject. This article written by Scott Gilmore for Maclean’s debates the negative effects that slacktivism can have. Gilmore writes about how social media has made slacktivism even worse than it used to be, and how people who like, share, or retweet social causes are doing so to make themselves look good rather than to actually help the social cause. Gilmore states that “the real root of the slacktivist problem is biological. Our brain has evolved to reward us for perceived altruism” (Gilmore, 2014). While I do not agree with all of Gilmore’s opinions, I do think that this quote has some truth to it. I’ll admit that any time I am asked to like, share, or retweet a cause and do so, it makes me feel like I have accomplished something and as a result I feel good about myself. It brings me to question my own intentions. Why should I feel better about myself just for clicking a mouse? Shouldn’t I be solely focused on the marginalized groups that the click of a mouse is supposedly advocating for?
Gilmore advises readers to quit being slacktivists and to simply either donate their time or money to a cause instead of using social media as a crutch. Maybe this is the “slacktivist” in me speaking, but what if you don’t have the money? What if you don’t have the time or resources to donate to a certain cause that you’re interested in? Is it really better to do nothing just so as to avoid being judged as doing it for your own benefit? In her post The Death of Slacktivism , Gillian Branstetter argues that slacktivism no longer exists. She writes that “millennials, once maligned as spoil and lazy, are now armed to the teeth with the benefits of a digital world” (Branstetter, 2016). The gist of Branstetter’s post is that social media allows for better organized and publicized social causes. Her post cites quite a few social movements as evidence for the extinction of slacktivism, including Black Lives Matter and #FightFor15 to name a few.
After researching slacktivism, I am closer to forming an opinion but nowhere near finished. Yes, the click of a mouse may seem lazy compared to donating money or time to a cause, and can lead to perceived altruism. However, if social media were to be eliminated from social activism, I think causes would suffer. Social media allows social change issues to gain greater exposure, and can be a beneficial platform for social change when utilized correctly.