Have you ever shared inspirational quotes, bought awareness ribbons and bands, or changed your social media avatar to show support for a cause? If so, read on because you may not realise it, but you could be a slacktivist!
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I too changed my Facebook Avatar to Red, White and Blue stripes after the Paris bombing and felt really proud when it was in multi-coloured rainbow colours a few months earlier in support of gay rights. It made me feel like I was making a small difference, or perhaps it just showed the world that I was the kind of person who cares, and that made me feel good too.
But did changing my avatar make any real difference to the victims of the Paris bombing, or to the discrimination faced by members of the homosexual community? I’m not really sure.
Sure, little actions like these do show support for a cause and can help create a ground swell of changing public opinion but there is a fair bit of commentary out there that suggests that they do nothing more than make us feel good.
There’s even a term for it…… slacktivism…..
What Is Slacktivism?
Slacktivism refers to actions performed, typically on the Internet in support of a political, social or even environmental cause that require little time or involvement, such as signing an online petition, changing your avatar or joining an online campaign group. In some circles it’s even called Hashtag Activism or Clicktivism, and is described as caring enough to do the very least. #ouch
This criticism of keyboard warriors is perhaps justified since there’s so many examples where supporting online causes has led to, well, a lot of media but not the desired outcome.
Take, for instance, the online campaign #bringbackourgirls in 2015. The world united in outrage over the 276 girls abducted from a Government school in the Nigerian town of Chibok by Boko Haram.
In less than three weeks the hashtag had been used over 1 million times, even by the US First lady Michelle Obama.
Yet over a year after the girls were taken the majority are still sadly missing.
The 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge was another online campaign that harnessed a huge following of people having a bucket of iced water poured over their head and sharing the video on social media, in the name of raising awareness and funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Despite being labelled a successful campaign by organisers, it was calculated that only 10% of people who participated in the challenge actually donated funds. The campaign was also criticized for wasting water.
At the other end of the spectrum from slacktivism is activism.
What Is Activism?
Activism is defined as taking action to effect social, political, economic or environmental change.
An activist is a person who vigorously advocates or opposes a cause in order to create change.
When I think of an activist I think of former Leader of the Australian Greens Party, Bob Brown.
Bob really walks his talk and nothing stands in the way of him championing causes he believes in. I mean he pretty much stopped the damming of the Franklin River in Tasmania and thanks to him we still have a wild river left in the beautiful Apple Isle.
It’s not surprising that the degree of difference between slacktivism and activism is huge.
Now this could be due to many people just not caring enough about an issue to take action and lead change, but it’s also because leading change is hard, and can attract a lot of criticism.
Activists are also often portrayed as pretty crazy and disruptive people so it’s not surprising that many people just don’t want that label.
Most women in western countries take it for granted that we can get an education, have a career and a family, vote and even drive, but we don’t necessarily want to be called feminists! That would put us in the same category of those women who fought so hard and burned their bras for gender equality. Geez, what would they think of us?
Environmental activism is in a class of its own. I’m sure the term brings images of people in small rubber dinghy’s stopping large whaling boats, or people camping out in old growth trees in protest against logging of native forests. That’s pretty hard core stuff but that’s activism in the true sense of the word……. Taking action to effect social, political, economic or environmental change.
When we “retweet,” when we “hashtag,” when we “share,” when we “like” online we allow ourselves to feel good because we’ve shown a level of awareness.
But actions speak louder than words.
Money or your presence (that is actually ‘doing’ something whether it’s rallying others, motivating through speech, sitting in, educating or volunteering) speak even louder.
So, where do you lie on the Slacktivism-Activism Scale?
Do you regularly stand up for what you believe in with your time, money or presence or are you more at the keyboard end of making social change?
Regardless of where you lie I want to challenge you to a little bit more for those causes that are close to your heart.
If the environmental cause is one that you’d like to champion I’d love to give you a heads up that in the next week or so I’ll be launching my first ever crowd funding campaign to get my Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs project out into the world.
I filmed the campaign video today and as soon as it’s edited I’ll be launching the campaign and I’m so excited….and a wee bit scared!
I’ve wanted to create this project for over three years now to help as many families as I can transition to a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle, but I really do need your help to make it a reality.
So please, when it’s launched by mid May 2016, check out the fantastic rewards on offer and if there’s one that tickles your fancy I’d love your support. They’re nice and varied and include foundation membership of Self Sufficiency in the Suburbs (for a discounted rate), sponsoring my Eco Chat Podcast, 1 on 1 Conscious Business Coaching packages, and even having dinner with me (my shout) at an exclusive Australian Bush Tucker restaurant in Adelaide!!
But of course, if you’re more of a slacktivist I’d appreciate any social media likes, retweets and shares as well, because regardless of what the critics say, every little bit of awareness does help 😉
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