“Slacktivists don’t raise money”
“Slacktivists aren’t informed”
“Slacktivists aren’t connected to the cause”
“Slacktivists aren’t real activists”
“Slacktivists don’t accomplish anything”
I’ve heard and read these complaints a million times over. How many times do we need to see a campaign like the one launched to restore Planned Parenthood funding when Susan G. Komen Foundation pulled out? Over $400,000 were raised rapidly, Komen went back on their decision, and at least one board member was fired/resigned. That strikes me as a lot of money and accomplishment for a bunch of people who, “don’t care,” and “can’t accomplish anything.”
I would like to point out that the TOMS Day Without Shoes (which appears to have accomplished nothing more than clogging my inbox) is considered “activism,” while buying something BOGO is “slacktivism.” I have an inherent problem with the term slacktivism, but I also have issues with how we define it. I don’t thinkwe have to choose between one or the other, and I think there is far more overlap within these groups than is usually portrayed. How often do I have to go to protests to maintain my credibility? How many times can I tweet about a cause before I shift into “slacktivism” territory?
Traditionally, buying BOGO, purchases where a percentage goes to a cause, signing an online petition and donating via “like” or text message are all considered Slacktivism. Isn’t my money just as good if it comes via text? In the paraphrased words of my friend Eduardo, we all have to wear clothes, so they may as well mean something and do some good. Isn’t my slacktivist clothing accomplishing more than your sweatshop-produced, unsustainable stuff? Isn’t my support for a petition just as good online as in person?
Not only are these things as good, but I think they’re better. Change.org can gather way more signatures than I can on foot. People are more likely to donate when it is convenient, and a text or like is nothing if not that. I’m buying clothes and other products anyway, so shouldn’t everything I buy go to some good cause, whether its breast cancer research (which has mobilized this method quite well), AIDS medication in Africa or university apparel made by a unionized workforce earning a living wage.
Then there is the other category of Slacktivism. The “likes” that aren’t attached to a donation. The shirts that say “Occupy” and serve only the profit of an individual. The act of sharing a video like Kony 2012. This isn’t armchair activism, this is not really giving a shit. Can’t we please just separate the two?
I think it’s unrealistic to expect people to take hundreds of hours out of their time to go to rallies and protests and knock on doors and gather signatures. But why should we? I think about the schedule of someone like my mother, who works full-time and is involved with her family and community. There are several causes about which she is passionate, including MS research, Breast Cancer and women’s rights. Sites like change.org allow her to be informed and to inform her online network about the causes that matter to her. She can post the link and recruit signatures while she makes dinner. She can shop for my Christmas present and support small businessnesswomen in Africa at the same time. Why shouldn’t we harness the power of caring yet busy individuals? Of course we still need the employees at NGOs, advocacy groups and in public policy, and we need the weekend warriors to make a powerful, physical statement for news cameras. But my mother’s donation to Planned Parenthood is just as good as those of “real” activists. To ignore the power of modern media and a busy but empathetic public is foolishness. If online and in-person activists work in concert and organizations harness that power and direct it to the proper systems of power, I see this as a gain for activists everywhere.
So please, banish the term slactivist from your vocabulary. How about we get back to the causes instead of trashing on other people who just want to help advance them?