Everyone always talks about the power of technology, but when it comes to making our voices heard our social media content is often dismissed. It’s time for change.
If there is one thing underpinning the experience of growing up as a millennial, it is the boom of the digital age. It’s been our nemesis and our friend. While we can share snappy Tumblr posts and message each other all day long, we’re also being monitored by the government and potential employers. We’ve got information at our finger tips. We also have fake news. We can engage with different people easier than ever, and we can also be trolled.
We went from MSN, to Facebook to Snapchat. The people we rely upon almost always have to be accessible to us online. They might purely be online friends or they may be friends we know ‘in real life’ but we’ve actually talked to more online, because it feels safer and less pressured. The internet is incredibly important to us, the wider economy, the entire global community and therefore it has to have a place in our activism.
“The internet is incredibly important to us, the wider economy, the entire global community and therefore it has to have a place in our activism”
There should be more reactions than just a mild tolerance of online petitions, or giving the odd retweet to someone who wants to fundraise or is making a particularly strong political argument. We need to defend slacktivism, invest in slacktivism and let it drive forward the rest of our actions.
Slacktivism is accessible. It allows people who can’t travel or don’t feel safe in political spaces to have a voice. Slacktivism then shouldn’t be seen as an add-on but an essential part to our collective action. Everyone should be doing it too, wherever possible.
Some people can’t online because it might out them or make them unsafe. That is understandable. But lots of us can take part and it does bring change.
Some of the biggest campaigns of recent times have been because of the power of social media. Black Lives Matter, #LoveWins, #IStandWithAhmed all grew enormously because of social media. Through online platforms, people have been able to grow their organisations and even crowdfund for essential medical treatment when the state has failed. Social media, and specifically slacktivism, can be used to empower people. It’s why a former Twitter employee became a global hero for shutting down Trump’s account.
The establishment may outwardly sneer at it, but it’s because they don’t know how to utilise it effectively, which is why all of the political parties spend thousands of pounds trying to get messages out online. In 2017, it was found that the Conservatives spent more than £1 million on negative Facebook adverts.
Slacktivism can cover a range of activities. Everyone can play their role. It might be managing a social media campaign, using social media to break down awful Government plans and spread the message widely, uploading political design work, organising the logistics to marches and protests and trying to connect with other activists. Whether it’s tweeting, selling political merchandise on Etsy, supporting other activists or marginalised people through Patreon, offering emotional support, showing solidarity or speaking truth to power, every act counts and goes some way to making a difference. If a petition gets over 100,000 signatures then the UK’s Parliament will consider it for debate.
The social media posts count too. If you think it’s worthless then consider the importance of it being public. If you’re arguing with someone who is bigoted then the chances are that you won’t change their mind – but other people could be reading too. The people following the post and don’t feel able to reply themselves could be the ones who need to read words of solidarity the most. If you argue with your ignorant uncle and affirm that bisexuality is real, a questioning bi person may feel validated when society at large is erasing their identity.
Campaigns have always centred around communication. That includes the slogans on placards to what organisations call themselves. The core of any movement has been to spread a message. Social media plays into that by its very concept. To diminish its role in activism, is to limit our effectiveness to engage. Social media is also real life. Our real life has just evolved and our online communications matter.
Online networks allow us to meet like minded people when we otherwise probably wouldn’t be able to connect otherwise. We can connect with people who are talented, inspired and dedicated to making change, and those who may just want to get involved when they can or are able. There’re far more opportunities to engage people than convincing them to go to a protest, which costs for travel and might be scheduled when they’re at work or have other commitments.
There is no ‘real’ form of activism. Trying to bring change is what counts. Slacktivism offers so many opportunities that it should be the form we look to first. We should all be slacktivists.
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