Lazy Activism

Kony 2012

Does anyone remember Kony 2012? The video that came out in March of 2012 is considered the most viral video ever made. I was in university when that documentary went viral and I remember how upset everyone was and how people wanted to take immediate action. The project’s website asked online users to create even more awareness by “painting the town”. The event was planned for April 20, 2012. The site sold a bunch of stickers and posters for people to buy to put all around their towns and cities on the night of the 20th. I remember seeing so many Facebook groups for Toronto, and even my own town; Whitby. People were discussing meeting places, and areas to cover. This event was all anyone was talking about. I remember talking to my friends about it, and wanting to participate, however when the 20th rolled around we did nothing. The next morning everyone around the world was expecting to wake up to Kony 2012 posters on every street corner, however that was not the case. Globally, the night was a flop. Hardly anyone turned out, considering the vast amount of people affected by the video.

Why is that? I think that Kony 2012 is just one of many examples of lazy activism.

“Slactivism”

Social media has given us the opportunity to globally communicate, and in this case, create awareness about growing problems. There is not doubt that this is an amazing thing. Without social media, not as many people would’ve become aware of issues like Joseph Kony and the invisible children. However, it allows people to feel like activists when they are simply pressing a “like” button, or retweeting something. Social media has given the opportunity for people to feel like they are making a difference by doing the bare minimum. This isn’t to say that people don’t make a difference on social media. I know there is a lot of good that comes from social media, like raising awareness and money. However, I think it’s a way for people to say they did something without actually going out in the real world and doing it. Technology stands in for us in the realm of action. In a lot of cases the communicative message prevents actual action. Kony 2012 required no sustained involvement.

I’ve noticed this type of activism a lot on Tumblr. Tumblr is known for it’s very accepting and inviting community. Users shed light on a lot of very important issues such as racism, homophobia, and gender identity. However, all this positive discussion and awareness has a lot of negativity embedded in it. I read a lot of the comments on the pictures people post about these topics. People argue that if you “like” those pictures as opposed to “re-blogging” them, then you are not helping the cause. A lot of these users are very passionate and opinionated and a lot of times they are creating awareness, but it seems like a lot of yelling and arguing for the most part. I think Tumblr is an outlet for people to have important discussions about inequality, however, they seem to just stick to that outlet. By posting pictures and articles, they think they are making a difference, and in some cases, they might be, but there is a big difference between blogging about wanting to make a difference and going out and actually making a difference. Tubmlr is like it’s own world of activism that has its own rules that users should abide by, like re-blogging instead of liking. It’s great that there are so many passionate people out there that want to see change in the world, but it would be better if they all went out there and turned their words into actions.

 

Why does “slactavism” exist? Is it because it makes people feel better about themselves, or make them feel they are actually making a difference? What do you guys think?

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4 thoughts on “Lazy Activism

  1. I couldn’t agree more; many people commenting about social problems and great causes on social channels are definitely “doing the bare minimum.” It would certainly be better if we actually DID act on these issues! But without some serious and well-conducted research, it’s hard to draw any conclusions about why that’s the case.

    Maybe those who yammer the most on social media are people who, for unknown reasons, aren’t really ‘out there’ in the world much. Maybe disabilities keep them stuck at home and interacting via social media is a way for them to feel connected and feeling they are contributing. Raising a voice and raising awareness is, after all, showing some concern and taking some sort of action… Maybe being raised in a digital age — where people grow up believing that interacting via a device IS a real form of communication, as opposed to face-to-face or voice-to-voice — leaves us sadly deficient in grassroots, boots-on-the-ground forms of activism.

    You’ve raised my awareness level today, in any case. I wasn’t aware of the difference in attitude between ‘like’ and ‘reblogging’, so thanks for that.

  2. Pingback: Carefully curated lives – Algonquin College Social Media Certificate Program

  3. Great post. I think a big part of the problem is simply the sheer amount of information we are reading. I don’t think our brains have been able to keep up with the increase of information that is coming at us. What I mean is, at one point, you become desensitized about the things you read online. It is challenging for us to take action on one great cause we see on social media because just below that very post, we see another meaningful cause. This can cause confusion and internal turmoil (because you cannot have an immediate impact) and then live gets in the way and we forget about it. If someway we can see the real impact we can have, perhaps we be more apt to take immediate action.

  4. We are living – to quote Thomas Friedman – in an age of acceleration. The “too much information” brake we used to put on people who were sharing too much personal stuff is now an actual phenomenon. No solutions from me – just the overwhelming urge to turn it all OFF.

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