Slacktivism: defined by the ever-reliable Urban Dictionary as “the act of participating in obviously pointless activities as an expedient alternative to actually expending effort to fix a problem.” With the growing use of social networking, slacktivism too has gained popularity. Whether it’s changing your profile picture to a cartoon character to speak out against child abuse or posting a status update about the color of your bra, people are finding creative ways to pretend to make some sort of social impact.
At its heart, slacktivism is by no means evil. It’s rare for slacktivists to spread messages with malice, because their primary tactic is to tug at your heartstrings and make you feel terrible until you join them. Those individuals “spreading awareness” almost always do so with good intentions. But that’s the problem: slacktivism is nothing but good intentions.
The main issue is the illusion this creates for the common slacktivist. He often believes he has done his part in contributing to society by “spreading awareness.” I agree, there are certain instances where spreading awareness is necessary. I am among the many people who did not find out about the Troy Davis case until Facebook and Twitter brought it to my attention a few months ago. But does re-posting a false story on a cancer victim really do anything to spread awareness? Are you really saying anything about cancer other than the fact that it exists and that’s bad?
Social networking sites are certainly a viable outlet for spreading awareness, but users should do so in a legitimately beneficial way. Bringing relatively unknown scenarios to light is certainly a good way to do this. More important, however, is making some sort of real impact. The wonderful thing about the internet it has made all of this easier to do.
A good deal of organizations formed in the last decade make use of this convenience, such as Freerice, an online website that allows users to play educational games in order to fight world hunger. With ad revenue supplying the rice sent, Freerice has managed to feed over 4.32 million people through the UN’s World Food Program. Another lesser known example would be Kiva.org, which allows people to send loans to alleviate poverty both domestically and internationally.
Of course, there are plenty of options besides those for people to use, depending on whatever issue they’re most passionate about. Older organizations such as the American Cancer Society and Amnesty International have remained strong in recent years and have made getting involved easier through their websites through both monetary donations and active campaigns.
But regardless of your method, if you care about an issue, you have to make sure what you’re doing is making a difference.