Is slacktivism undermining the 2012 Obama campaign?

In the article titled the Social Pulpit, Lutz states that in the 2008 campaign, Obama used social media such as You Tube to reach people from all over the United States in order to promote his politics.  Morozov, however, talks about how the internet today pushes people away from actual activism and creates slacktivism.  After looking at multiple theorists, I believe both are correct depending on the time period; in 2008 Lutz is correct that social media is actually activism, whereas today, Morozov’s theories are correct that social media is pushing citizens away from true activism.

Lutz uses examples from the Obama campaign to show that social media is the way to promote any campaign in today’s world.  He tells readers that Obama used the Internet enthusiasm from the Dean campaign and the organization from the McCain campaign to reach campaigning success.  Lutz points out that one reason the Obama campaign was so successful was because he executed each of the above points perfectly.  Obama created a Dean type forum called change.gov where supporters could blog and bring up important political topics to discuss.  Lutz explains how this discussion forum opened up politics to a new group of people who were not involved previously.  Obama also used social media to fundraise like the McCain campaign did.   The McCain campaign struggled though because it lacked the political discussion.  If execution and balancing these two aspects is the key to a successful campaign, then why aren’t the same tactics working as well in the 2012 campaign?

I believe Obama is not as successful currently because of a greater increase in social media.  In 2008 Obama used YouTube and other media outlets to get his message out to citizens.  Today, with tweets and “likes,” Morozov’s slacktivism seems to be present everywhere.  It is this slacktivism that is undermining the campaign strategies that were so successful in 2008.

Do you believe it is this slacktivism that is undermining the old campaign strategies?  Or do you believe there is something else causing the slacktivism?

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2 Responses to Is slacktivism undermining the 2012 Obama campaign?

  1. danicawhitfield says:

    I think that you made a very good connection between Lutz and Morozov, especially when you state that “both are correct depending on the time period”. I agree that the Obama campaign was very successful in 2008 because he ‘rode the wave’ of new technology and that he can no longer do that in 2012 because the technology he utilized is no longer ‘new’ but just more widely used. To answer the question you posed: I think that Morozov’s claim does have some truth in today’s campaign strategies, but I do think that the ‘slacktivism’ has more potential to turn into activism in 2012 moreso than in 2008. To clarify, the ‘likes’ and the ‘re-tweets’ do show slacktivism because they require so little effort. However, I do think that the little effort required is still a way to spread the word and we especially see this play out on Twitter. Through my personal experience, I have been able to fact-check debates and find political news stories on Twitter just through re-tweets on my personal feed. Of course, true to Morozov’s claim, I don’t instantly become an activist but I do think that this transcends slacktivism because it is an easier way to spread information that could potentially sway a political view. The big question is whether spreading a like, sharing a post, or sharing a re-tweet will cause another person to actually make a change and vote for a different candidate or change their mind on a political stance.

  2. nverduin says:

    I thought you made an interesting argument about how the effectiveness of social media on campaigns is dependent on the culture of the time. In 2008 you could see the obvious success of the Obama campaign because the other campaigns weren’t using the tools as effectively and Obama was gaining more awareness than others. Now, in 2012, each campaign is using social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and the playing field is even.

    Although it may be hard to argue that the use of these tools has the ability to change a vote, I do feel that it provides more information for the undecided voter and individuals who wouldn’t normally vote. I feel that it has increased awareness of issues. The objectivity of this information is questionable but nevertheless these campaigns are getting their ideas out there. I agree with the first commenter that these actions of “spreading a like, sharing a post, or sharing a re-tweet ” grants someone the title of activist and can actually influence the turn out of an election.

    This threat of “slacktivism” on these social media sites can be bad for getting voters out to demonstrate and actually vote, but I would think these candidates might be able to raise more money for their campaign this way. They can reach the smaller donors, the 80%, that were not recognized earlier, and gain their support through a simple five-dollar donation. These social media sites may be successful for awareness and gaining donations, but I am not convinced they produce votes.

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