Tuesday, 15 March 2016
We're from the internet.
I typically fall firmly on the side of cynical when it comes to slacktivism, or any type of online protest. I say this having signed many online petitions myself and feeling almost swept up in really popular online campaigns. The big campaign that still sticks out in my mind is Kony 2012 campaign and the Invisible Children. I remember when I first saw the video, and having lengthy discussions about Joseph Kony and feeling shocked with myself that I had never heard about him until the video went viral.
Then not long after the video blew up and everyone was talking about Kony, the producer/narrator had a break down and suddenly everyone was talking about that instead, talking about donating or getting involved with Invisible Children was a scam.
I have no doubt that online activism informs about global issues. I have also read that slacktivism inspires activism, as just one of the many reasons why it is important. I think the efficiency of online activism depends on many factors, how effective it will be depends on the intended target, and who you are trying to rally. Not all activism done online is slacktivism, when there is an important message to share, and forms of social media are capable of doing just that. But to be truly effective, it does have to go further than online activism, hitting the share button, like button, or retweeting something worth reading. Online activism can be incredibly helpful when paired with something else, like using online communications as coordination tools, or when we see revolutions like Arab Springs, or Egypt being assisted by groups like Anonymous who set up ways for people in these countries to spread information through media and online communities (Ryan, 2011). Or how Avaaz actually tests their campaigns, or provides cell phone access to help spread the word (Kennedy, M). The 'members' of Avaaz may not do much more than sign a petition, but the staff make sure to take it further, ensuring their value is more than Slacktivism. Smuggling journalists in and out of Syria (Kennedy, M.) is so much more than slacktivism. Slacktivism can be powerful if it generates enough awareness and partners with actual actions taken, even if that is still done on a computer through hacking, or providing media channels.
The internet can be a powerful tool, as long as it's used correctly. I do believe that liking statuses or retweeting spreads awareness, and from that awareness might come more people who are willing to engage just a little more, and that's why people from the internet can be a reason to worry. Especially when they have the skills and ability to really use the internet again you.
Like the video says, you don't know what might happen from sharing a video, or liking something. You may only be comfortable living in the digital world, but because you helped to raise awareness, someone else may see the same post because of you and choose to take their involvement a step further.
Something else to keep in mind is that activism can bring around just as much negative comments and reactions as activism can, for different reasons. There were many negative reactions coming out of Occupy movements (who also used online activism in combination with physically showing up to protest), including an overwhelming number of the white privileged, and how only one small amount of the 99% was truly being represented (Costanza-Chock, 2013).
Ultimately there is power in numbers and awareness, which slacktivism helps achieve. But slacktivism has to be continued on and taken one step further to really bring around change and create a difference. It's easy to forget an email, but it's not quite as easy to forget or ignore calls for a revolution gather in the streets.