Does “slacktivism” work?

Posted by on Jan 6, 2016 in Get Involved!, Motivation | 0 comments

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Slacktivism” is better than nothing, but it’s not hard to do more.

Brett Bittner at The Advocates, a libertarian site, wonders whether sharing, favoriting, retweeting, and pinning things on social media really accomplish anything. On reflection, he understands that when many people pin, like, or share social media posts, there is an impact; and there are busy times when that is all we can do.

However, he has some ideas for action that does have measurable impact:

  • Look for events where you can put up a table, where you can meet people and promote your group, issue, or philosophy. This is easy in college – gets pricier afterward. Gun shows, book fairs, and town celebrations provide tabling opportunities.
  • For local issues, going door-to-door is a technique just as valid as it is for candidates or political parties.
  • Give money, as well as time, to favored causes.
  • Be a shining example of the cause you promote. Results are not immediate, but others will be inspired to follow your example.

Slacktivism, however, can be a gateway to more costly and meaningful contributions to a cause, according to Prof. Laura Seay, writing in The Washington Post: The more attention a cause receives, the more likely public officials are to pay attention to the cause, which means tangible benefits like legislation, policy changes, or money donated to the cause. These, in turn, spur further involvement. However, deeper engagement is more likely for those whose initial support was done more privately (like writing a letter to a legislator) than for those who started out with a public expression like a Facebook post or Twitter tweet. The latter promote more slacktivism to all but the most dedicated followers of a cause.

A cautionary tale

But be careful. The road to hell can be paved with good intentions. A good example is the campaign to expose African warlord Joseph Kony through a YouTube video posted in March 2012:

It was a 30-minute shockumentary film about the fugitive African warlord Joseph Kony, whose cult-like guerrilla army is called the Lord’s Resistance Army, and basically goes around Africa raping, pillaging, and murdering. Within weeks Kony 2012 became the most successful viral video ever, getting over 100 million views in its first six days. Incredibly, a Pew Research Center poll found that 58% of young adults in the United States had heard of the video, comparable to your average major studio motion picture. The movie’s call to action? Send money now — but not to African law enforcement, to the filmmakers themselves.

The filmmaking organization, Invisible Children, raised $31.9 million, almost all of which came from viewers of the movie. They reported no grants or other sources of income. The next year, they produced a sequel for $15.5 million. But that was only a 20-minute film that took one month to produce. The result? People gave money, not to an organization to help children, but to an organization that made films about the need to help children.

Sometimes, you don’t have the time or money to get deeply involved, but at least do some upfront research to make sure you are giving your time and money to a valid cause. Quite often, causes asking for your clicks or dollars aren’t worth even that little bit of effort.

Tell us about your experiences with slacktivism in the Comments area below.

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