Does Slacktivism Work?

            With social media’s rapid expansion, the internet has seen a wide variety of activism campaigns, which frequently find its way into the public’s email and Facebook feed. However, one of the results of all these campaings has led to a new breed of activism: slacktivism. What is slacktivism? It is used to describe the online activism that has zero social or political impact. Evengy Morozov presents a variety of interesting questions regarding slacktivism in his article “The Brave New World of Slacktivism.” Is it beneficial to have slacktivists participating in a campaign by having them click to support the cause? Morozov is skeptical.  He states that “it’s easy to dismiss most criticism of “slacktivism” as simply unproductive: after all, having thousands of people…suddenly start practicing the kind of click-based “nano-activism” available via Facebook and Twitter could be extremely useful, if only for specific campaigns that would, indeed, benefit from increased public attention.” (Morozov, 2009) Campaigns have the ability to benefit from their slacktivists who prefer to contribute from behind a computer. According to Morozov, they gain more attention for the particular campaign and possibly increase its chances of gaining more activists. However, while public attention can do good things for a cause, I don’t believe that it can replace the organizational work put in by more involved activists.

            In Eli Pariser’s book, The Filter Bubble, he talks about the sophistication of the internet and how it leads to a “filter bubble” for online users. The filter bubble describes what kinds of advertisements and news user are exposed to online. Pariser makes the case that users will only be exposed to news and ads that relate the user’s specific interests. With the internet being so personalized, it can be difficult for users to discover different views on political and social issues, along with hiding users from opinions different from their own. Consequently, this filter bubble can answer the question presented by Morozov.


When slacktivism’s best attribute is spreading the message of a campaign, is the filter bubble preventing that from happening?

Is a user’s online experience so personalized that it blocks the spread of online activism campaigns?

This entry was posted in Winter 2012 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Does Slacktivism Work?

  1. mdhaas715 says:

    The questions you pose are interesting to think about. I do not believe that the filter bubble and the personalization of an user’s online experience are preventing the spreading of a message of online activism campaigns. While the readings for this week suggest that the filter bubble and online personalization end up only reflecting information that you are already interested in or agree with based on the similarities of interests among the people you associate with, I disagree to an extent. Pariser assumes that all of the people you are interacting with inside of the filter bubble have the same interests and ideas as you. However, many people that would be incorporated in my filter bubble, and thus affect what information I receive, would be clicking on things online that are different from my interests. Since our interests overlap yet are different in certain respects some of the campaigns that they may click on, that I was not aware of or initially interested in, could potentially pop up on my newsfeed on Facebook. The appearance on my newsfeed of an action that a friend took would spark interest and thus spread the message of the campaign. Therefore, I don’t think an user’s online experience can ever be too personalized that it blocks the spread of online activism campaigns because no matter if the interests of the people personalizing your online experience are different than yours or just reflect information you’re already interested in, these campaigns are being passed and seen among many users.

  2. jnzucker says:

    Your blog post allowed me to reflect back into my own experiences and interactions with Facebook and other social media sites alike. I think that your argument is interesting in that Facebook might be filtering campaigns and acts of slacktivism from our newsfeed. However, I think that once a campaign goes viral, such in the way that the Equal Rights Campaign did, it is hard to filter from newsfeeds, no matter ones interest. However, other campaigns that are not as popular may be likely to slip through the cracks, as peoples different interests might filter them out. We live in a world in that our every move on the internet is personalized, adding our information to a filter so that we can see information that we want to see, not what we tolerate seeing.

  3. Emily Dobrowski says:

    As Parsier highlights throughout his book, the filter bubble may have some grave implications for the diffusion of different political viewpoints. Although there is contention regarding whether slacktivists have an impact on the political process, in reference to your blog post, I do not believe that the filter bubble is hurting slacktivists’ efforts. My reasoning behind this is my personal experience. For example, in Spring 2013, many students were posting on Facebook a University of Michigan petition to reverse the new Big House stadium seating process. As I had posted on Facebook the petition as well, my high school friends whom are enrolled in other universities most likely did not. My high school friends are very engaged with one another on Facebook, so it is likely that the algorithm believed that my post was relevant to them; however, they most likely chose not to click on the post because it was not relevant to their college environment.
    Thus, although the filter bubble may or may not filter out certain messages, it is still likely that persons with other beliefs are exposed to the message; however, it is those persons’ choice to be influenced by those posts are not. I, thus, do not believe that online experience is so personalized that it blocks the spread of online activism campaigns, because of the infancy of the algorithms.

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