Slacktivism: Is it the Easy Way Out?

        We live in a society that relies heavily on the Internet, as the virtual reality that it has created has essentially become an extension of our own life and experiences.  As heavy users of the Internet and social media websites alike we are constantly exposed to news, campaigns and various forms of activism.  Throughout the article, “The brave new world of slacktivism,” Morozov presents the idea of slacktivism, which is, as he describes it, “an apt term to describe feel-good online activism that has zero political or social impact.” While Morozov believes that “slacktivism ” is the perfect form of activism for a “lazy generation” of dependent internet users who rather post status updates and sign petitions than the risk of arrest and violent consequences.  However, I disagree.  Slacktivism may lack traditional forms of activism like protesting and sit-ins, but it offers an alternative way of advocating for a cause in the 21st century mindset of Facebook statuses, tweets and email chains.

            The Internet provides its users with the opportunity to come together and rally for a shared interest or cause. It is easier to reach out to hundreds (maybe even thousands) of people through social media outlets than in person, as one is more likely to notice and catch on through the Internet. While Morozov argues slacktivism gives a false impression of actually making a difference, I disagree. The Internet provides different methods of campaigning for a cause. For example, in The Filter Bubble, author Eli Pariser discusses a website that he created, called MoveOn. This website gives users the opportunity to create their own campaign, with an online petition that can be sent to virtually anyone. He argues that the combination of the Internet and collective action can help democratize the world. His website alone is a prime example of how ordinary people can support extraordinary causes simply by clicking a button.

            While Morozov harshly decrees “slacktivism” for lazy, unconcerned and uninterested people, I firmly believe that advocating over the Internet is not only the way of the future, but a useful tool for online campaigning.  Do people that participate in online activism actually care or are they looking for an easy way out? 

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4 Responses to Slacktivism: Is it the Easy Way Out?

  1. While I see the point in arguing that internet activism does contribute to awareness and much more widespread knowledge about certain issues, I moreso agree with Morozov than Pariser. I’ve personally signed petitions on MoveOn, and even when the petitions reach into the hundred-thousand range, there is so much more legal input that has to be considered than the masses adding their name to a list on the internet. Rumors have gone around that petitions to the White House’s website have to be brought before congress if they reach 100,000 people, but how seriously will the White House treat a petition to change the national anthem to ‘Born in the USA’ if they’re not legally obligated to take action?
    A perfect example of slacktivism can even be found in Michigan Athletics’ change in ticket policy. Online activism lacks two key parts that actual in-person action has: a physical demand for attention, and significant outcomes. No matter how many kids griped about it on Facebook, things aren’t going to change unless people don’t buy tickets or find another way to protest the policy outside of their computer screens.

  2. Online activism can be a bit tricky to gauge how much people actually do care. I do agree with your argument that slacktivism can be very useful and engaging for causes, especially when trying to reach a mass audience. Back in the day, when there was no internet, it would be nearly impossible for a single person or small group to reach a large crowd to voice their own opinions and views. Some people behind online petitions and the sort are very concerned and active in gaining followers for a cause they believe in. On the other hand, slacktivism does allow social media users to very easily share or sign up for something they might not know anything about. The hope is that when users hear about a cause, they might research it a bit more and learn about it. Many people might do this, however, many also do not which is when slacktivism can be problematic. This generation often hears about a cause and only knows what they are told because they don’t research the topic further. A perfect example of this was the Kony 2012 YouTube video when millions of people were viewing and sharing the video, yet probably did not do anything further than that. Of course nobody wants to risk getting arrested or hurt in a real life protest, so I do think online activism can be a great alternative. It’s just harder to tell whether people really care about an issue or not when they’re behind their computer as opposed to actively protesting and risking injury or legal issues, which only someone with very strong opinions on an issue would be willing to risk.

  3. erikpeulicke says:

    As a generation so attached to our social media, we are always exposed to activism campaigns over outlets like Facebook and Twitter, Like most of my friends, I will participate if I agree with the cause. However, how much of a difference are we all really making? We’d like to think that the least we are doing is spreading the word about a particular cause, but according to Pariser, we are so enclosed by our own bubbles that we may not spread the cause as much as we would like to. With people surrounding themselves with like-minded opinions, is it safe to say that we are really swaying people to join a cause? I think not. In many cases, I believe campaigns are reinforcing beliefs in users rather than convincing them to join their side. This, of course, is not always the case. However, the more the internet traps us in our bubble, the more likely slacktivism will become ineffective.

  4. kcwassman says:

    Activism online is a double edged sword, but I largely agree with you that it is an important tool in this day and age. Even if the movement is small, a single post on a friend’s Facebook wall can quadruple awareness. While it may be seen as ‘the easy way out’ for larger widespread issues, for localized or small movements the internet is crucial. That being said, slacktivism can help show widespread support for an issue like gay marriage; the example being the profile picture change we discussed in class. Slacktivism may not play a huge role in large-scale movements, but it certainly does more good than harm.

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