In this age of ubiquitous technology and social media, society is constantly looking to make things easier. Whether it be connecting to friends, communicating over long distances, or building movements, we use the digital world to improve efficiency. Many nonprofit organizations and NGOs have utilized the ease of connecting via the Internet to get millions of individuals to sign online petitions, “like” their Facebook pages, and to disseminate information. However, some criticize these simple actions as “slacktivism,” combining the word “slacker” with “activism” to display how they find such organizing to be meaningless.
Proponents of slacktivism point to how many people are reached by measures designed for mass appeal, like a petition where one simply has to type their name to sign. Causes can boast of having tens of thousands of signatures on any kind of issue, claims which would have been unheard of just a few decades ago. Reaching out to this many people increases the number of individuals who are made aware of any given cause. Naturally, some will blindly sign anything that sounds remotely interesting. Many others, however, are exposed to facts and figures which illustrate serious problems of which they were not previously aware. Slacktivism creates a simply manner in which anybody can add a little bit to any effort—even if the little bit everyone adds is miniscule.
Slacktivism’s detractors argue that sinking to the lowest common denominator of action oversimplifies the complexity of fighting for a cause. Simultaneously, slacktivism can actually replace more beneficial, pronounced actions; some people might sign a petition and then pat themselves on the back, thinking that they’ve done their share of good work. Very often, the easiest things can be the least effective things—and slacktivism’s critics claim that enabling people to do easy things will prevent them from doing effective things.
Both sides of the argument have merit—the former embraces the notion that all positive action is beneficial in the end, and so undertaking even the tiniest good deed is still worthwhile. The latter claim is concerned that because all individuals can only engage in a given number of actions, polluting the pool of potential actions with tiny, meaningless options ends up crowding out the truly worthwhile deeds. When people truly want to help, then it is hard to believe that they will stop after simply signing an online petition. The task, then, is to get everyone to be as excited as possible about helping to make the world a better place. That way we can all sign petitions—and then go out and do even more.
Sources: New Scientist
Photo: Relevant Magazine