Online Campaigns and Slacktivists

With the development of the Internet, there emerged a big push in online campaign efforts, as we saw with Howard Dean.  The incredible power of the Internet can change a candidate’s profile and bring them to light.  Howard Dean was a long shot for the Democratic nomination in 2004, but his digital campaigning almost won him the nomination.  He raised a great deal of funds online through many small donations.

Dean also used the web to recruit voters and supporters.  Hindman writes how fundraising was only one part of his successful digital campaign.  The ability for it to reach across the country and to citizens that were typically uninvolved was incredible.  It was an effective way to get his name out there and increase his campaign funds.  I argue though that this campaign was aided by slacktivists.  However, unlike Morozov might see typical slacktivism, this type of easy participation was effective.  The viral spread of his campaign was unmatched, and it allowed for citizens to become involved fairly simply.  While slacktivism may not involve much effort, minimal participation by citizens in this online campaign seemed to have a positive impact.

My questions for everyone are the following: what type of slacktivism can be effective?  And can digital participation in a political campaign actually be considered slacktivism or is this genuine political engagement that truly is having an impact?

This entry was posted in Winter 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Online Campaigns and Slacktivists

  1. coxmarg says:

    Great post! I think that slacktivism can be effective on social media when it means exposing a candidates policies to your friends in your social network. Slacktivism can be a form of persuasion and encourage candidate support. It can also mean convincing a friend who is already planning on voting who to vote for. However, as the Dean example shows, it seems almost impossible to gage whether candidate support online leads to actual support in the voting booth.

  2. Matt M says:

    I thought that you had a very insightful post Kevin. In response to your questions, similar to Marg’s answer for the first, I believe that slacktivisim can be effective as a means of spreading the word about a particular movement, or in this case a candidate and their policies. By exposing others within your social media network to a candidate and their policies you may inform some who are unaware of what the particular candidate stands for, and may in turn persuade them to in turn “commit” slacktivism or ultimately vote for the said candidate in a coming election. In regards to your second question, I believe that this is very subjective. I personally believe that most digital participation in a campaign is slacktivism, however, as I stated previously, this slacktivism has the potential for positive effects in relation to informing and persuading potential voters.

  3. Ciarra Ross says:

    I enjoyed this post. I recently wrote about the topic of whether or not so-called slacktivism can be considered genuine political engagement. In my observations and experiences online, it can go both ways. Many people accomplish bridging communities and create and build online and then translate it to activity outside of the Internet, which I think can definitely be seen as effective activism. These measures can be tricky as there are multiple variables at play when gauging the success or effectiveness of a particular digital activism campaign. It is especially hard to gauge the success of an online campaign for politicians.

  4. jmclancy says:

    egardless of whether or not it’s ‘slacktivism’, any knowledge of a political candidate should be positive for a presidential prospect. Therefore, I think that there is a fine line between ‘slacktivism’ and ‘genuine political engagement’. I suppose the effectiveness of digitial activism is subjective, however, the impact that digital communication had on the Dean campaign speaks volumes. Without the internet, I don’t believe the nomination race would have been as close. Regardless of online participation potentially being characterized as ‘slacktivism’, it is still one step closer to someone being pushed to vote simply from knowing their name. I’d like to see what specifically falls under the category of slacktivism because I know for a fact that most voter participation that would be seen as beneficial for a candidate rarely takes much effort…are most voters slacktivists?

  5. sheypat says:

    I think slaktivism can be effective because it is promoting awareness. Even though it really may not make a huge difference that people are all retweeting a tweet, or changing their profile picture, or sharing something on Facebook; it actually is effective at doing one main thing. That thing is raising awareness about an issue. Some people may think it’s pointless, but I think it is actually very informative for a lot of the public who is not as engaged in politics or current happenings around the world. I worked for Rock the Vote this past year during the 2012 elections and one thing that we did to raise awareness was change our profile pictures letting everybody else know that it was the last day to register to vote. I know for a fact that many people had not been aware of this, and these were people who genuinely did care about voting. Without something small like a profile picture change, they may not have known about it. Without knowing about it, they wouldn’t have been able to voice their opinion and this country would be slightly less democratic. This is the reasons that I think that slackivism is not completely ineffective. Using social media, even in the smallest form is therefore slightly helpful.

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