Academic, Schmacademic!

Before we kick off some of the ‘cooler’, more interesting posts, I think it’s super important to deal with some of the academic theory around slacktivism.  Remember, to us here at Your Slacktivity Feed, slacktivism isn’t a dirty word.  But up until now, it’s definitely been treated as one.  Slacktivism to us simply means: the kind of activism that you can complete from the comfort of your own couch, desk, plane, train, automobile.  Cut yourself some slack(tivism).  We can’t always put a hold on all the many things we have going on in our lives to stage a sit in, join a protest march, or picket outside a government building… That’s not to say we shouldn’t make the time, but here we need to also be reasonable.

Our aim and job here is to give you ways to participate in social change in those fleeting moments between your work and home, your meeting and interview.

Why do people think this is bad?  Let’s kick off.

First issue, there are so many social movements that we come into contact with that it becomes so easy to only engage lightly with them.  While that’s true, there are bajillions of problems out there that we need to deal with, engaging lightly with any cause is not an issue.  You’re engaging with it right?  What happens when we engage with something?  We end up more educated than we were before.  And if that engagement has happened publicly before our personal followers, surely their engagement increases as well.

Second.  Engaging in online activism discourages people from a deeper offline engagement (Kingsley, 2011).  Well, this is pretty much just wrong.  I can understand where the worry comes from though, because the high that comes from giving yourself through time, effort or monetary donation is being had through the small tokens of likes and follows.  This would be scary, and something definitely worth some deeper investigation.

For some proof, we turn to some research released in 2012 by Georgetown University.  Their results found:

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Now that that’s over, let’s look at beginning of the more positive spin on slacktivism.  What is the function of online engagement with social causes?  The creation of the critical periphery. “Peripheral users are less active on a per capita basis, but their power lies in their numbers: their aggregate contribution to the spread of protest messages is comparable in magnitude to that of core participants,” (Barberá et al, 2015).  The critical periphery is made up of those people that make a protest, or a movement feel large, go viral and make an impact.  Expressions of solidarity like tagging #JeSuisCharlie or #BringBackOurGirls mean that massive numbers of people around the world can participate in a movement regardless of their physical capacity to be ‘there’, on the ground.

So please, don’t beat yourself up.  Take part in something bigger than yourself.  If you first reaction is to like, follow, share, retweet… Let’s just start there.  It’s ok to let this make you feel good.  People who feel good are more likely to do good.  (Disclaimer: I have no evidence of this last sentence, but it sounds like common sense to me!)

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