Slactivism vs Support

My variation of a popular Facebook meme  Image: Dakster Sullivan
My variation of a popular Facebook meme Image: Dakster Sullivan

The internet is starting to become a breeding ground for causes to gain support. According to the Urban Dictionary, there’s a word for this new trend: it’s called slactivism. If you can’t tell, it’s a mix of the two words slacker and activism.

Online petitions and social media are two ways slactivism is gaining ground. Now, instead of actually having to show up to a protest or send donations in to support a cause, you can do it from your computer without any effort.

One example of the latest slactivism trend can be seen on Facebook.

The most recent (and still major) political issue has been the Human Rights Act, specifically referring to marriage equality for gay couples. More than two-million people changed their Facebook profile pic to show their support for equality.

After seeing so many of my friends change their profile pictures, I started to wonder if it was really making a difference. I mean, how many people saw that profile pic and changed their stance on the subject?

Sure, everyone could see in a quick glance where they stood on the issue, but did it make a difference in Washington where the real debate was happening? After a few days, it was turned into a joke, with some people putting their own spin on the red logo (my favorite was the Waldo version hopping around).

Another slactivism trend is the emerging of more and more online petitions. If you were to do a Google search for “online petition,” you will come up with more than enough websites willing to host your cause. Even the White House accepts them.

Traditionally, petitions were done by getting actual signatures (you know…with a pen) on a piece of paper stating what the problem was and what you wanted done to fix it.

Now, if you want to petition for something (like say…a Death Star), all you have to do is head to any online petitioning website, create a username and password, and you are all set to make your case.

The good side to online petitions is that it brings 1,000 times more people to the party. Right now you can go to Change.org and sign any number of thousands of petitions. Many have even been marked as “victories.” Of course, they don’t list how many petitions failed to accomplish their goal.

The bad side is that not many people take them seriously. Any idiot with a computer can sign an online petition and not feel any responsibility to the cause. I know I’ve signed a dozen or so of these online in a fit of anger over what I read, but never went back to find out if the petition even worked. A case can also be made that it’s easier for petitions to be signed fraudulently.

Supporting a cause used to mean sending money or donating your time. In some cases, it meant making signs and getting up at 5 a.m. to march through the streets, yelling made-up chants along the way.

Now, all you have to do is log into your computer, make a two-second change on your Facebook page or put a hash-tag on your Twitter profile, and you are now “supporting” a cause. In my opinion this isn’t so much supporting the cause as telling others on social media how you feel about the cause.

I remember my first act of “standing up” was in the 5th grade. We wanted chocolate milk as an option for more than just two days out of the week. What did we do? We wrote up our grievance with the lunch room and passed it around the classrooms. We asked for a reasonable change of letting us have chocolate milk four out of the five days a week.

I remember signing the petition and realizing the significance of signing my name to the cause. When the teachers and lunch room staff saw the work we put in and the long list of students in support, they were dumbfounded. Later, they discussed the change with school management and in the end, we won! It felt great to see our hard work pay off.

Now, I know that isn’t anything like the march on Capitol Hill during the civil rights movement, but hey, I was only nine years old! It’s the point that counts.

We put in the physical work to make a change. We didn’t go on Facebook and complain and change our profile pics to chocolate milk cartons. We stood up and we got it done.

I understand how slactivism could be a good thing. I can also see the negative sides. On the positive, it brings more awareness to a particular cause. On the downside, people think that because they make a change on their Facebook page or put a hash-tag on their Twitter profile that means they are supporting something. They can add their name to the long list of people who believe in something, but it’s a far cry from going to Washington and making an actual protest for change.

What do you think? Is slactivism the future for “supporting” a cause or a trend that will go away in time? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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Dakster Sullivan is a network administrator by day and a cosplayer by night. She loves discovering new books to read, tech to play with, and ways to express her herself. She has anxiety and depression and strives to educate others about these invisible illnesses.