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RT if you're not a slacktivist

Samantha Luiz's picture

Likes don't save lives . Money does. And Vaccines too. Yet social media still remains a site for feel-good clicking rather than actual change.


Slackvitism is a term that combines the words "slacker" and "activism". It refers to "simple measures used to support an issue or social cause involving virtually no effort on the part of participants." Most of us have probably done it more than once. I'm not talking about those ridiculous Facebook posts that challenge you to like a post if you love God, for example. Slacktivism is more subtle than that. Think about the time you retweeted the #StopKony tweets in 2012, signed the #BringBackOurGirls petition or changed your profile picture to that red and pink equal sign to show your support for gay marriages. But how many of us logged off our computers and engaged in the causes offline? Probably very few, yet still managed to sleep well at night because we liked the cause-related group.

 "Signing an email petition to stop rampant crime is slacktivism. Want to really make your community safer? Get off your ass and start a neighborhood watch!" I couldn't have said it better, thank you Urban Dictionary.

Source: L. Montague. sourced at


Yes, it's a silly as it sounds. To think we can change the world in the comfort of our living rooms. Take #Kony2012, for example. The campaign sought to bring Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony to justice. The Youtube video went viral, drawing the attention of the global community. But at the end of the day, the movement failed because Kony is still at large. However, we learnt an important lesson from #StopKony2012, that is, retweets don't catch terrorists, government action does.


Then there's the egotistical slacktivist. This is where we cue in the No Makeup selfie campaign . When did we agree that posting pictures of ourselves without makeup raises the awareness of the devastating effects of cancer? When I first saw the hashtag on twitter, I did not immediately make the link with cancer. To me, the campaign was just about a bunch of egotistical tweeps who made the campaign about themselves and not cancer victims. How many of the people who took part in the no make up selfie campaign actually donated money or was active in raising awareness of the effects of cancer. The true activists managed to raise about €2 million. Maybe if the slacktivists had shaved their heads instead. Either way, another lesson was learnt here: there is a very thin line between activism and slacktivism .  

 But "slacking" may not be entirely horrible. Look at the #BringBackOurGirls campaign. A few weeks ago, more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped from school by armed Islamist millitants. Initially, there was little media attention. This all changed when Oby Ezekwesili, the vice president of the World Bank for Africa, gave a speech demanding the Nigerian government to "bring back our girls". His words turned into a hashtag that caught the attention of world leaders, pressuring them into action. Essentially, slacktivism could be the stepping stone to more active engagement with social issues. President Obama and David Cameron, for example,  have sent in specialist teams to Nigeria to help. The hashtag has also seen celebrities taking part. While the slackvists may not be actively challenging the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls, there is awareness and a sense of solidarity. Social media has spoken and the world is listening.

 The Arab Spring is another example of when slacktivism works. Often dubbed 'the twitter revolution', the incident shows the importance of social media in protests and social change. The efficiency of the internet enables activists. Through online channels, they can organize, inform, plan and mobilize at a level that was almost impossible with traditional methods. The Arab Spring proves that new media can be a powerful catalyst in instigating social change. 

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