The Cure for Online Slacktivism
This article was originally published on October 5, 2015.
We've all experienced it. Profile pictures changed to colored ribbons. Cartoon characters assigned to timelines. Multiple "shares" and "likes" for non-profits on social media.
Since the dawn of the internet, your hippest and most politically active Facebook friends have been able to fill you in on the latest online gimmick to raise "awareness" for whatever is cool at the time. (Remember #KONY2012, anyone?) The idea behind the posts, likes and shares is all find and dandy. But, the slacktivism isn't and it needs to end.
Slacktivism is defined as, "actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, e.g., signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on a social media website."
...Or saying something like, "like my status in support of..." You get the picture.
Slacktivism is easy. It requires mindless clicks to make others think that you're super involved. (A colleague of mine wrote an article recently that summed up my complete feelings on the subject. You can read it here.)
What's even worse than the laziness that causes slacktivism are the low-information slacktivists that spread around misinformation.
For example, yesterday the dreaded Facebook copyright hoax went viral again. When it originated in 2011, most telecom junkies like myself thought that by 2015, people would realize that Facebook is free and always will be. Alas, it was back despite the countless news stories that were circulated regarding the hoax.
Not to mention the countless "click-bait" stories that get shared about everything from the 2016 election to abortion and beyond. One would think that in an age where information is at our fingertips, it would be unheard of to not have the truth immediately.
Unfortunately, that's not the case. Take any example of a high-profile legal battle, a politician's speech or a viral video and you'll surely find conspiracy theorists and "Facebook lawyers" that have stated their opinions about the "facts" before the story is even a day old. (And the year 2015 has had plenty of those kinds of news stories to go around.)
Believe it or not, there is a way to cure slacktivism.
First, get off of your computer. Second, make a list of the causes you actually care about and/or have donated money to in the last year and actually get involved in them. Run (or walk) a 5K, volunteer on the weekend or have a bake sale to benefit said cause.
Lastly, actually research what you share on Facebook. Is that news story actually true? Did Donald Trump really say that?
Find out what the other side of the aisle thinks. If you're interested in a more complex issue that can't be fixed with a 5K or a bake sale, contact your Congressman or Congresswoman and ask them to help. March in a rally. Attend a school board or city council meeting.
Just "liking" a photo of the disaster relief efforts in Nepal solves nothing. "Sharing" a post from the World Wildlife Fund of a sick koala does nothing.
Getting informed and getting involved solves everything.