Activism or Slacktivism?

Going online is globally trending, it happens in multiple aspects, now, also includes activism. Concisely, it takes advantage of social media as a tool for propaganda, theoretically, first to raise awareness and then turn thought into action. Digital activism, some call it hashtag activism, has been strongly growing  for the last few years as a consequence of cyber-culture explosion.

Why social media?

Social media provide public sphere where everyone (with Internet access) can be involved in (accessibility), social media meet the demand of fast distance communication by use of hashtag, and it is widespread enough to create a community.

Social media has the potential to bring fair and balanced news coverage with little or no bias of mainstream media or propaganda.

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The number of social network users worldwide from 2010 to 2016 with projections until 2020

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Most popular networks worldwide as of Sepember 2016

(source: statista.com)

Does it work?

Yes, it does. Social media is powerful, and if we know how to use it properly, it will bring about expected results. I mean, we all know the power of the Internet. Take “Save Son Doong” for example, which I am a part of its community. The campaign started after an announcement of the plan to build a cable car to Son Doong Cave was made. After months resisting, the Vietnamese government has signed off on a development plan which prevents cable car construction until at least 2030.

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Save Son Doong’s Facebook Page

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Save Son Doong’s website

But is digital activism as good as we may think?

Digital activism is widespread, but it is controversial. Urban Dictionary defines the problem by the term “Slacktivism”. Belarusian researcher E. Morozov (2009) has sum up the controversy:

““‘Slacktivism’ is the ideal type of activism for a lazy generation: why bother with sit-ins and the risk of arrest, police brutality, or torture if one can be as loud campaigning in the virtual space? Given the media’s fixation on all things digital — from blogging to social networking to Twitter — every click of your mouse is almost guaranteed to receive immediate media attention, as long as it’s geared towards the noble causes. That media attention doesn’t always translate into campaign effectiveness is only of secondary importance.”

What makes the difference between a successful and a failed campaign?

ORGANISING, I believe. Every project that succeed has a clear target and a well oriented pathway to attract people and involve them in to take action. Take #Euromaidan for example, which has been effectively used new media, social networks and other IT tools for organising and sustaining the protests. The official EuroMaidan Facebook page, used to inform protesters of urgent news and issues, discuss plans, warn against violence and so on, reached approz. 76k likes in the first eight days of its existence. An English version of it has also been set up. This is a good way to spread the protests wider, as it acknowledge foreigners. 

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Whether it is powerful or pointless, whether it makes changes or it just make people feel better for literally doing nothing, it is there, it is real and it is still a controversy. For me, no matter how research finds, I believe in its power, but it is important to use the right tool the right way. What about you, what do you think about hashtag activism? Are you a part of it?

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2 responses to “Activism or Slacktivism?

  1. You mentioned social media and its potential of bringing fair and balanced news coverage, but I think there’s a little more to this compared to what you mentioned. Across the internet, there are definitely many points of views on every news story that crops up on your news feed whether that’s on an election, a peaceful protest turned violent, or just a celebrity saying something that may be deemed racist. The thing is though, the news you receive on Facebook feed is from pages you like and follow therefore you create the bias yourself since people don’t tend to follow news publications with opposing views to their own. Here’s an article about some of the bias that Facebook has been accused of: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/may/24/facebook-changes-trending-topics-anti-conservative-bias

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic meme, I feel as though that really encapsulates how online movements really work, as it’s not doing much in the aspect of actually ‘saving’ these people. I think a great way for these movements to succeed is to reach beyond it’s targeted audience somehow, as you mentioned movements such as Euromaiden are directed toward certain audiences. http://www.forbes.com/sites/gregsatell/2014/01/18/if-you-doubt-that-social-media-has-changed-the-world-take-a-look-at-ukraine/#4caaefd0699d Here is a great article on how these revolutions actually can succeed!

    Like

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