Does 'Slacktivism' help change the world?

by Developed Africa 27. August 2013 09:00

 Times have changed in terms of activism, and the internet plays a large role- but does this translate to having a large impact?

The phenomenon of "slacktivism" originates from some point in the 1990s, used by Dwight Ozard and Fred Clark to define the activism activities of young people which really have no further reach than their own feeling of self-worth. Back in the early 2000s slactivism or "clicktivism" as it became once it moved online, described the notion of people signing up to email notifications from charities and activist groups, but never actually doing anything, or even reading the emails. Nowadays the term is generally used to describe the actions of people online as they post, share, and 'like' articles to do with charity campaigns or protestations of human rights.

The recent example of the "Kony 2012" campaign, highlights how little people know about the campaigns they were 'supporting' on facebook and other social media sites. The video went viral, being shared madly across Facebook, people were taken with the 30 minute video claiming that if enough people took part, Kony could be caught within the year. The follow up to watching and sharing the video was supposed to be participation of a "cover the night" campaign, in which activists would cover major cities in Kony 2012 posters, making the world take notice. But despite reaching over 100 million views in 6 days, the "cover the night" campaign garnered little turn out in comparison with around, as reported in the Guardian. Admittedly, some did continue to campaign and in January of this year President Obama signed a bill to bring Kony to justice.

However, what is important to take from this example is the lack of motivation by the millions who shared and supposedly supported this campaign to actually do anything about it. And that is the issue with Slacktivism, an issue UNICEF decided to make some noise about. In March 2013, UNICEF began a campaign against clicktivism with posters saying things such as: "Like us on Facebook and we will vaccinate zero children against polio". The campaign, coming a year after the Kony incident, takes its main issue up against the constant campaigns from various companies who advertise that for every 'like' they receive on Facebook they will donate a certain amount to a charity or cause, but UNICEF officials say that:

this type of campaign is that it breeds a type of charity slacktivism- for most users, no further action is taken after that initial click"

And it is true, this is what many are concerned with when it comes to online activism, yes, it shows that there is a lot of support for different charities and causes, but it doesn't actually do anything. For the most part, good old fashioned activism is seemingly dead. For example, whether or not it is the right thing to do, the recent "open letter" Stephen Fry sent to the Prime Minister of the UK to encourage him to boycott the Russian Winter Olympics in the name of gay rights received a lot of shares and retweets on both facebook and twitter. But no action, no march, no movement. That was last week, and now everyone who shared or like the post has moved on and forgotten about it. Support hardly ever turns into action these days. 


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