The constant creation of newer and more captivating technological devices draws in individuals and captivates them. For organizers behind activist causes, this calls for new techniques to draw attention from the public in order to gain support and attention. Enter slacktivism, the solution to every lazy person’s wish to join a movement, to have a hand in a committed objective that sounds good to be a part of whether it be cancer research donation or saving animals from extinction. Slacktivism is the practice of supporting a political or social cause by means such as social media or online petitions, often involving very little effort or commitment and is often associated with viral movements. But does it really matter? The University of British Columbia found that when people participate in a form of public token support, they aren’t any more likely to participate in a form of more meaningful support in the future. Someone who ‘likes’ a cause on Facebook wouldn’t be any more likely to donate in the future than someone who had no exposure to the cause at all. (Essig 5). These likes and comments are simply from those wishing to jump on the bandwagon of a cause’s popularity. A desire to present a positive image to others and a desire to be consistent in the values one holds as well as the ability to view such advertising are key reasons of influence for either supporting or not supporting a cause is explored by Kirk Kristofferson who investigates reasons as to why slacktivism is not a working method of protest. The method of protest containing consistency problems in results and motivation (Kristofferson 1162). Online activism may start viral movements, but most are often unable to bear results and have little to no government response. Online petitions to the government are often ignored and ridiculed by representatives and lawmakers, with many governments having responded by demonizing and attacking social media (Tufekci 1). Slacktivism as a means of protest does not work due to its ineffectiveness, lack of power, and uncertain outcome of results.
Slacktivism may bring some light to a cause but there aren’t many cases of successful results after a movement occurs. This may be because of lack of genuine interest. It is easy to like a post, retweet an article or change a profile picture, and never actually participate. If someone donates, they’re more likely to stay updated or even increase interest in the cause. But what comes after sharing or retweeting is the problem. After liking a post or commenting on it, further effort to be a part of a cause is minimum because from a slacktivist’s perspective, they’ve already “done their part” with the share or retweet. It is good if a cause is just looking for more awareness, but if it needs real support, then the cause doesn’t get what it needs and the supporter on social media hasn’t made the difference they thought they did. “Raising awareness is a lazy objective. Awareness is a given, action is what you want to promote,” (Essig 14). Although millions may contribute to a campaign on social media, little actual effort may be taken by the same supporters. An online organization may promise to donate $10,000 or plant 20 million trees if their post garners thousands of likes, but there is no guarantee that they will keep their promise. More than 13% of total reported fraud cases in the American work force took place at nonprofits according to ACFE. And the Ernst & Young study found that one out of five workers personally knew of fraud in their workplace. (Zack 1). Fraud within nonprofits are increasing at an alarming rate.
Simply liking a post or commenting does not really have much effect immediately. By contrast, mass in person protests can form rapidly but then, lacking the resilience created over time, often lost focus, direction, and, most important, their potential to effect change such as what is seen during the current Hong Kong protests for freedom from Mainland China which has become violent and vandalism based instead. Effective protest requires not just the right of the people to gather, but accessible public spaces in which gathering is possible and citizens who understand what those rights are. (Malchik 6). Direct action such as showing up to show support in person for a cause is needed in order to directly enact desired changes. Protesting in person shows a supporter’s true dedication while slacktivism is more casual, thus bearing less results.
It is known that slacktivism and social media are both associated with many viral movements that seemingly blow up overnight, however many a times, the cause gains it’s fifteen minutes of fame before fading-without any action taken to generate positive outcome. This was notably seen with the “#BringBackOurGirls” movement. When in April of 2014, 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped from the Nigerian town of Chibok by Boko Haram, a lawyer tweeted the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls to bring global attention to the problem. The campaign was endorsed by social media influencers such as Kim Kardashian and was also supported by First Lady Michelle Obama. It went on to become one of Africa’s most popular online campaigns and was shared more than four million times over the next month on Twitter. But after the hashtag fizzled out, more than half the girls were still missing and life in Chibok remained in terrible conditions with nothing to show for a result of the campaign (France-Presse 8). The government dismissed the claims with a wave and nothing else was done to make change. Such actions by state governments are commonly seen soon after, many government officials see the social media movements as a campaign against their positions that may be fabricated to harm them. Although other state governments may offer help to take action, it is often denied or not followed up by the original government. “With this speed comes weakness, some of it unexpected […] The ease with which current social movements form often fails to signal an organizing capacity powerful enough to threaten those in authority” (Tufekci 2). Viral movements created by slacktivists do have positive results, but more often than not, they are not always guaranteed to happen. The ratio of slacktivism movements with action and results to no accomplishment is heavily weighed to the side with no achievement.
Slacktivism can be an opportunity for causes to raise more awareness, and in some cases, it can even create so much awareness that it increases donations or supportive public protest. Creating groups that are willing to show public support for a cause, online or offline, is never a bad thing. The problem arises when an organization gains 10,000 followers on a social media site, but never reaches their goal financially or can’t get volunteers to help out when needed-and the reason is that the followers feel as if they’ve already “done their part” by engaging on social media. Slacktivism isn’t enough, but it is a start. If nothing else, sharing something will bring light to an issue that needs to be solved. The solution towards real change is nonprofits need to tell their story in a compelling enough way that the community wants to get involved in-more than just liking or sharing-and the public has to be willing to put some real effort in to make real change in the world.