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Slactivism: Not just lazy activism3 min read

May 17, 2016

We’ve all seen it online – the purple-tinted profile pictures aimed at promoting cancer awareness, the graphic YouTube videos that document extreme poverty in developing nations before asking viewers to share the information with their friends. “Slacktivism,” as many call these online word-of-mouth efforts, is a modern, technology- centric twist on an age-old practice, used frequently to refer to such actions as liking a photo on Facebook or signing an online petition.

This jaundiced term is used to accuse online advocacy of replacing actual activism with an image, video or online action that, in the end, doesn’t actually benefit the cause. In fact, many argue that clicking share only provides a brief glimmer of self-satisfaction for a guilt- ridden viewer while not actually helping to remedy the issue in any way.

Despite these arguments, the Internet has recently proven the world otherwise: Slacktivism has actually taken activism to an entirely new level. Social media users are quickly becoming more informed and conscious of current global issues since sharing information, starting petitions and creating videos or fundraisers has never been easier.

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Though liking a post on Facebook isn’t ever as effective as attending a sit-in, the same goal can easily be accomplished through spreading awareness worldwide – and awareness is an essential first step towards meaningful, effective action.

The internet provides everyday people with the information, motivation, and means by which they can create effective change. Even if one online user changes their profile picture or shares a video without any further intentions of involvement, it increases the chances that the information is shared with someone else who is more likely to involve themselves in the issue, inspiring them to take action.

Online activism is putting more power into the hands of everyday citizens. As seen in the defeat of the heavily criticized Stop Online Piracy Act five years ago, activism online strongly and commonly affects real-world events. When social media users were informed that SOPA would censor online content and freedom of expression, over 10 million signatures were signed on petitions online, and members of Congress received around 3 million emails pleading them to oppose the legislation.

Because if this, many elected officials publicly came out against the act, rapidly diminishing any chance of SOPA becoming a reality. Many online petition signers were informed of the steps they could take through aspects of social media, specifically shared photos and videos.

The internet is truly a powerful tool for good, but it’s causes only survive as long as the audience’s attention span., That said, it shouldn’t be overlooked by pessimists insisting that the only way to make a difference is through becoming involved in events solely in real life.

So many aspects of everyday life, from dating to managing personal finances, have turned to the online world in the past decade – so why can’t activism be a part of that? It has become a necessity that businesses and government organizations have an online presence, and charities should be no different.

Recently, Humans of New York, a Facebook page dedicated to sharing photos about the lives and stories of everyday people, has been involved in a series of fundraisers and charities to promote different issues. While many simply liked or shared the photos, millions of dollars have been raised for worthy programs through the page.

Though granted little glory, slacktivists commonly evolve into strong, effective leaders and advocates for change. A study recently conducted by Pew Research showed that people who consider themselves to be online activists are twice as likely to volunteer, seek donations or become involved in a charity-related event than those who do not.

A powerful picture or an informative article can give online activists motivation to further their involvement in local as well as global happenings. While slacktivism in and of itself may not be an adequate substitute for protests or pickets, it is a common and vital first step towards involvement and eventual global change.

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