Slacktivism: Fueling Minority Voices By Retweeting

The word “slacktivism” has not yet infiltrated the mainstream, but the actions behind it have permeated the Internet. Slacktivism, also known as “passive activism” or “armchair activism,” refers to actions performed on the Internet that support a political or social cause but require little active effort and commitment. Though it seems logical that active effort in support of an issue, such as organizing a rally or speaking out, conveys the message, passive effort is not only on the rise but can be just as effective, if not more.

Traditionally, people have given impassioned speeches and turned to the streets to raise awareness and support of their cause. Nowadays, that tradition has not died, but has been given a twist due to the rise of people following issues through their Twitter accounts. Popular examples of slacktivism include, but are certainly not limited to, retweeting and signing petitions. Modern groups with notable causes include, among many others, Black Lives Matter and the Native Americans protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Though both movements are a product of the efforts of minority groups, their work has gained widespread attention, the majority of which has been created on the Internet. The online publicity surrounding those movements prolongs the movements themselves. But is passive support really enough to create long-term change?

Slacktivism, despite its negative connotation, does produce positive results and acts as a successful outlet for minority voices. Humans have an innate desire to be a part of something greater than themselves, and slacktivism provides an outlet through which that desire can be met. However, one argument against slacktivism is that it is simply too lazy, too effortless. Virtually anyone with Internet access can now raise awareness of and support social movements. But that shouldn’t mean everyone who tweets in support of a cause can rightfully call themselves an activist. Activism, minus the slack, can require immense amounts of time, money, and effort, all of which slacktivism does not.

If passive activism is so successful in increasing the longevity of a movement, does that mean slacktivists can call themselves activists? If so, then there would undoubtedly be an overwhelming mass proclaiming themselves to be activists, when all they’ve done is compose a tweetstorm. It certainly does appear that America is more activist than ever before, with all of the so-called activist content floating around the Internet. The success of slacktivism leads to the conclusion that it cannot be dismissed as useless or ineffective. However, it is undoubtable that true activism requires true effort, and whether or not slacktivism is true remains up for debate. How important actually having that debate is… I’ll leave that to you.

This article was written by Karen Guan. Click here to see more of Karen’s work.