KIS Lifestyle Opinion

The Illusionary Satisfaction of #Slacktivism

As slacktivism rose to prominence on social media, numerous hashtag campaigns have come and gone with minimal action being taken. What does it mean to be a slacktivist, and how can we tackle slacktivism to better the promotion of important causes?

Shortly after the Paris terror attacks in 2015, social media platforms were dominated by #prayforparis; the hashtag was used in pictures posted by over 70 million users just on Instagram. Many KIS students took to Facebook to change their profile picture to a temporary one with a tint of the French flag, again using #prayforparis in their caption. Some even wrote paragraphs about the severity of this issue, calling for immediate action. But of these “passionate” supporters of the hashtag, how many actually typed in Google “how to help victims of Paris attacks?” Did they donate to the Red Cross which quickly mobilized volunteers or to French charities like Secours Catholique-Caritas France or the French Secours Populaire which provided aid during local emergencies? Did you?

If you didn’t, you’re not alone; you’re one of numerous slacktivists. Slacktivism is a combination of the two words “slacker” and “activism.” This term was only coined online a few years ago along with the rise of hashtag campaigns. Like the name suggests, slacktivism is a form of activism that requires minimal effort. Slacktivists participate in “feel-good” measures such as liking, tweeting, or sharing to express concern over a social or political issue and then do nothing else. You might have been guilty of that sentiment as well; after posting #remember0416 on the anniversary of the Sewol Ferry incident, you may have mentally patted yourself on the back and thought to yourself, I’m raising awareness about this important issue. Go me!

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Every April, yellow ribbons can be seen on the streets, Instagram, backpacks, and more. By May, they’re all gone.

“Raising awareness” is a phrase often used by slacktivists to justify their actions. And I’m not trying to undermine the progress made by some activists on social media, because activism online can have its benefits too. It’s just that there is a limit to how much we can do to promote an issue on social media. Raising awareness is important, but it isn’t all there is to helping a cause; many people, however, seem to have forgotten that. After basking in the self-satisfaction they feel after retweeting a hashtag, slacktivists believe they have done their job and stop there. They scroll down their news feed and look at all the other people using the hashtag, thinking about how they have now also contributed to the cause.

This belief, however, has become a real threat to the proper development of grassroots movements that are fundamental to healthy democracies. Although the viral nature of these hashtag campaigns is their strength, it ultimately is their downfall. So many of these hashtags come and go within the span of a few weeks, and we soon move on to different, more current issues. During that process, however, many issues slide into obscurity without practical solutions.

Many critics of slacktivism have been quick to make assumptions about teenagers and activism, saying that the whole lot of us are passionate supporters of a cause on social media but not in real life. I asked a few people from KIS to test the stereotype and see if our age group does really have a lot of slacktivists.

1. Anonymous (’20)

Q: Have you ever used social media to promote an issue that you care about?

I’ve used the hashtag #alsicebucketchallenge to raise awareness.

Q: Why did you choose to promote that cause?

I researched about ALS out of curiosity because a lot of people were doing the challenge, and I felt like it was worth promoting!

Q: Did you take any action that wasn’t on a social media platform?

No.

Q: If your answer to the previous question is yes, what did you do? If your answer to the previous question is no, what do you think you could’ve done, and what do you hope to do for causes you may promote in the future?

I could’ve actually donated to an organization that helps people with ALS, and I hope to do the same thing for causes I want to promote in the future instead of focusing on just raising awareness on social media.

 

2. Anonymous (’19)

Q: Have you ever used social media to promote an issue that you care about?

In middle school, I posted on the anniversary of the Sewol ferry incident.

Q: Why did you choose to promote that cause?

I read an article about it. An issue that I didn’t care about before suddenly brought tears to my eyes once I imagined myself in the victims’ situation, or even a survivor’s.

Q: Did you take any action that wasn’t on a social media platform?

Yes.

Q: If your answer to the previous question is yes, what did you do? If your answer to the previous question is no, what do you think you could’ve done, and what do you hope to do for causes you may promote in the future?

I wrote an article about it years later to raise awareness about why it was a big controversy that still hasn’t ended, and why the issue still needs attention. A lot of the Sewol ferry incident continues to be about keeping the issue above the surface.

 

3. Jenny Chung (’19)

Q: Have you ever used social media to promote an issue that you care about?

Yep!

Q: Why did you choose to promote that cause?

At the time of the events, I felt that I should take part in at least raising awareness for the issue since I knew that I wouldn’t be able to donate money or do much else… I also think that raising awareness for an issue is the first step to resolving it, and social media is a great platform for people to do that easily!

Q: Did you take any action that wasn’t on a social media platform?

Yes.

Q: If your answer to the previous question is yes, what did you do? If your answer to the previous question is no, what do you think you could’ve done, and what do you hope to do for causes you may promote in the future?

I participated in school clubs (like Social Justice League and Girl Up) that host events and volunteer instead of opting to just raise awareness for issues! Although my answer to the previous question was yes, I think that I could do more in the future by donating money or actually volunteering as a first-responder to global issues, but that would probably come a few more years in the future!

 

4. Suahn Hur (’20)

Q: Have you ever used social media to promote an issue that you care about?

Yes I have — I have changed my profile picture with the French flag tint.

Q: Why did you choose to promote that cause?

As with most issues that are present in society, I thought that raising awareness and reminding of ourselves of such tragic incidents were important.

Q: Did you take any action that wasn’t on a social media platform?

Unfortunately, no.

Q: If your answer to the previous question is yes, what did you do? If your answer to the previous question is no, what do you think you could’ve done, and what do you hope to do for causes you may promote in the future?

I think there are such limited ways in which we, as high school students, can reach out to global problems like terrorist attacks (to be specific to the issue I’ve mentioned so far); we can only show that we still care and want to educate ourselves about the ways with which we can hopefully prevent further aggression and digression from status quo. I truly value education and never losing our sensibility surrounding global issues to be vital in improving our society!

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#bringbackour girls became viral after the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by Boko Haram. Three years later, we still haven’t brought back most of our girls.

So for the slacktivists out there roaming the hallways of KIS (yes, I mean you, person reading this article): keep firing away all the hashtags and paragraphs about how angered you are by the bigotry or violence, but don’t let yourself feel satisfied by posting on social media and rationalize your decision because you’re just a student. There are students at KIS who are actively promoting their cause through both hashtags and . One successful case we can always look to is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. After it became viral online, the ALS Foundation raised $12 million and made a huge breakthrough in ALS research earlier this year using the money from the challenge. So after sharing something on Facebook, go read up on the issue. Join an organization, donate, protest, blog, contact your representatives and legislators via email or phone call, and, when you come of age, vote; hashtag activism is only meaningful when it is paired with real-world action.

– Kristin Kim (’20)

Featured Image: https://studybreaks.com/2017/08/10/celebrate-anniversary-ice-bucket-challenge-als/

Sources: http://officiallykmusic.com/never-forget-0416-today-day-remember-sewol-angels/

http://www.thedailybeast.com/three-years-later-a-look-at-the-bringbackourgirls-catch-22

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